On Tour is the grittily realistic story of a group of American new burlesque dancers performing their way around the coastal cities of France. Mathieu Amalric directs and stars, and on Oct. 2, the final day of the 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival, audiences will be treated to a spotlight viewing of the film.
Inspired by the writings of performer-turned-novelist Colette, whose 1907 on-stage lesbian kiss at the Moulin Rouge nearly incited a riot, Amalric actually hired a group of burlesque dancers for a seven-week tour through France. His cast and tour included such new burlesque notaries as Mimi Le Meaux, Kitten on the Keys, Roky Roulette, and Dirty Martini. All the stage performances in the movie were filmed in front of live audiences, and the reaction is appropriately enthusiastic. What is scripted about On Tour (the dialogue, the character names, and the struggle of a director trying to find a Parisian stage for his weary troop) often takes a backstage to the sexuality and spectacle of routines that, 104 years ago, would’ve scandalized the public.
On Tour is an atmospheric film, directly beautifully from the start, when the camera rests on a corner of unforgivingly-lit mirrors, and three performers come and go at various stages of undressing. Kingdoms of props and cosmetics are reflected, and as the movie goes on, the boas, glitter, and make up share the shabbiness of their performers’ lives. Cigarette smoke and booze spill from frame to frame as the dancers circle in on Paris, where the enigmatic past of Joachim Zand (Amalric) reveals itself through his sometimes violent encounters with former colleagues.
During an interview with The Guardian, Amalric spoke about how he wanted to make a film about the way France and America fantasize about each other, and it’s clear that his character is taken by the honesty and sensuality of the girls, who in turn, search for the romance France has promised for centuries through it’s image and language.
It’s obvious why the Milwaukee Film Festival chose On Tour as a featured spotlight for closing night. Amalric, who won best director at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, shows the audience just how real people reconcile reality with their dreams of love and success. While it seems that introducing audiences to new burlesque is sometimes more important to Amalric than the actual story, On Tour affects and entertains with its candor, and gutsy experimental bent.
On Tour is playing at the Oriental Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 7:15 p.m.