the Horn Farm Paste Mob


RIZE

This was entertaining, but the more I think about it, the more skeptical I am that anyone could make a *worse* documentary on this subject. It’s about clowns and krumpers, two (somewhat) different schools of the frenetic Los Angeles improv hip-hop dancing the movie depicts. The clowns get their name– and their clown costumes– from Tommy the Clown, a former birthday-party entertainer who says he invented the whole thing. Nobody gives an origin or even a definition for ‘krump’ in the movie, though considering how people mention “getting krump”, it seems like there must be influence from ‘crunk’, linguistically if not musically.

So, the dancing is great, and it wouldn’t strain anyone’s patience to watch it for 90 minutes. But instead, the second half is full of genuinely sad events framed as though the director thinks they’re emotionally-manipulative melodrama, which goes some distance toward erasing their impact, followed by a sequence about how great Jesus is that’s obnoxious if the director is proselytizing, and incompetent if, contrary to appearances, he isn’t.

If I sound unusually willing to be bitter about aesthetic flaws, it’s because, ultimately, director David LaChapelle seems to be cheating. The film’s most impressive dance sequences have footage from several dancers, in different places at different times, strung together to the same music. This is an impressive technical feat (especially if, as a disclaimer that I missed at the beginning of the movie apparently said, none of the footage was sped up), but as the movie goes on, the music becomes less plausible: first Dizzee Rascal (which maybe people do krump to, I don’t know), then African tribal music, then a schmaltzy gospel song. For such radically expressive dancing, not knowing what the music it was performed to actually sounded like is frustrating, and not thinking your audience needs to know is contemptuous.

Worse, I found out after I saw the movie that LaChapelle is a music video director who’s used krumpers (some appearing in Rize) in videos for Christina Aguilera and other chart stars– which makes the bit at the end with a guy talking about how krumping and clowning are their own thing, a style that will never be exploited by mainstream culture, ridiculously cynical. I saw the movie with M, who I think exited it sharing my mixture of exhilaration and irritation. Sadly, on reflection, the latter has won out for me. If you rent it when it comes out on video, you can safely shut it off at the scene where Tommy the Clown breaks down in tears and you won’t be missing anything.

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