Madonna & W./E. Against Us!

DATELINE: Material Girl Directs!

Andrea Riseborough Andrea Riseborough as Duchess of Windsor!

If you are looking for Madonna in her 2011 movie W./E., you won’t see her. She was behind the camera, directing it.

The film is everything you might expect—and is also totally unexpected. It may seem like Downton Abbey in Material Girl terms, but it is really a solid case of Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam meeting Henry James and The Aspern Papers.

Two women named Wallis, 70 years apart, have what appears to be a paranormal encounter.  They are unsympathetic protagonists, but what the world hates, Madonna loves.

Back in 2011, the movie was widely castigated by critics as an overreach and under-achievement. Those tuning in to see the iconic woman will see only her stand-ins: the two Wallys.

Now with a few years passed, we can see W./E. as something far more interesting and poorly judged by audiences and the anti-Madonna contingent. The film is beautifully constructed and under-appreciated.

A modern 1998 woman is obsessed with Wallis Simpson and her husband, the one-time King of England.

Here the legendary singer stretched her wings to make a film about a woman researching the legendary love affair of the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Wallis advises her modern counterpart, as both women are rapacious and obsessive.

Madonna seems intent on showing the Duchess of Windsor sacrificed far more than her husband.

In Madonna’s hands, this tale becomes a curious parallel to the Henry James story called The Aspern Papers. The conceit is that Wallis Simpson has left some letters that explain the affair in more comprehensive terms of the 21st century. It seems the King may not have given up the throne for the woman he loved exactly as advertised. He made his wife a glamorous prisoner.

Madonna’s modern woman is flawed greatly, intense and refusing to be denied: much like the Duchess of Windsor and the Madonna of music.

Intriguing Abbie Cornish is the modern Wally, and Andrea Riseborough is the brilliant version of the Duchess Wally. This is a fascinating film on many levels. You need to re-discover it.

Stricken by Strike a Pose

DATELINE:  Posing or Imposing

strike

 

We never really paid much attention to the “Blonde Ambition” tour of Madonna back in 1990. We saw her legendary videos, like Vogue, but they were unavoidable. The boys who danced behind her were stunning examples of youth.

Now 25 years later, a documentary shows us what happened to her seven backup dancers that she plucked from obscurity and tossed away just as quickly.

Six of the seven were gay—and were probably too young to realize how much she used them for her own purposes in the movie Truth or Dare and on the tour.

Of course, it was at the time a great opportunity—bonding these young men into a band of brothers. However, the fallout in subsequent years took its toll. Drug abuse and puffed up sense of celebrity took years to overcome, but left a waft of regrets.

They had slightly more than 15 minutes of fame, thanks to Madonna, but when she was done, they were on their own. One died of AIDS, and others kept their secret for years of suffering with the illness—but they at least survived. They are still dancers and choreographers, working in their art. Yet, the pain is too readily at the surface.

No, Madonna does not join their reunion at the film’s end, though she likely gave them permission to use her materials—though not the famous video. Three sued her for callous treatment during the tour. They were too callow to understand much more.

Strike a Pose is like going to someone else’s class reunion. You see the angst, but these survivors did cast influence on a generation of gay young people, whether they were ill-used or not. No one mentions A Chorus Line, but the same fate befalls this crew. Ah, what they did for love.

The documentary is compelling evidence that touching fame fleetingly may be the cruelest part of show business.