by marion schreiber for FILMbutton
La Bare a world of parties, sparkles but more a story of a big family!
The story happens at the La Bare club,the most popular club of male dancers in Dallas, a club for women who want to relax, to have an experience of desire or just to feel beautiful by watching male dancers do their thing. Joe Manganiello in his documentary takes us on an emotional journey, into this other world that everyone criticizes and rejects with incomprehension. Through this documentary we learn about the male entertainment world.
From the first images, all of our prejudices and pre-conceived ideas resurface and we almost wonder why we are watching it, we feel embarrassed. The film begins with a small part of interviews where dancers introduce themselves. They explain to us that when they mention their profession, people automatically are surprised and/or view them with contempt. This brings us to our own reaction that we had two minutes before what bothers us even more. But then finally we begin to accept that it’s not only a profession frowned on but it’s actually a real job like any other. That’s what La Bare’s owners Joe and Alex explain to us. They wanted to make La Bare as a trendy club where men are actually real business men and give quality shows with respect. So we follow the lives of Randy “Master Blaster”, Channing, Austin, David, Cesar, DJ Nick Adams, Trent etc. We enter step by step into their lives and minds, to know why they made this choice and why they are doing this job.
It all starts with Randy “Master Blaster”, an atypical man, a mentor and a “father” for everyone in La Bare. Randy is been doing this job since the end of the 70’s, and has a body of a man twenty years younger but is the oldest member of the team. His fans call him Big Daddy, he was on many magazines covers and he is really respected in the profession. He is somebody who is taking is job very seriously, who teachs his skills to the young generations, self-respect, respect for the girls, while maintaining his physique. With his approach, the director,Joe Manganiello, makes us more comfortable and breaks the initial feeling of embarrassment that we may feel at the beginning of the film. Now we are laughing. We accept the fact that it’s another world and they are men like everybody else. We better understand why they actually do it. If its for money, of course, but also because they have fun on stage. The dancers transform once they or on the stage, inside & out. They can also discover themselves. Take for Austin for example. He realized that he couldn’t be in rhythm and listen to music at the same time. They can discover a part of their personality that they never knew existed.
Manganiello’s documentary doesn’t forget women. They are patrons and it makes the job even more complicated because of the nature of female desire. Indeed, the men tend more to search for intimate and private relationships. It’s mainly because the male dancers have to constantly promote themselves to create a good enough story to elicit pleasure and desire in a woman and thereby create a following. It’s at this point in the film that we get a real picture of this job, we start to realize how difficult it can be. A danger for the dancers can be to lose the distance between their role and themselves on the stage. That’s what La Bare’s manager Wesley tells us happened to him. He was so good that he believed the role that we was playing and it was not him. Who would have thought that this job was so hard? It’s a big industry, where dancers are trained physically and mentally for any situation in respect to clients and even their families (husbands, boyfriend etc) but sometimes it does not happen the way we want. That’s what happened to Angelo, a talent dancer compared to Elvis Presley, a legend who was shot and killed because of an argument with another man.
This next part of the film makes us realize these men with the very impressive muscles and physique are not immortal, they have feelings, regrets, they are human. Male entertainment is a big game sometimes a really dangerous one. One of these reasons can be they are playing with feelings to earn money. It becomes a more delicate job when male dancers start to have a family, have to juggle their dreams, their job, their need to build a monogamous relationship when they have constant temptation all day. It’s a constant struggle torture. From the outside it can be seen as easy money but is not. This is especially proven when viewing the amateur sessions. You can see the applicants failures and perhaps lose heart very quickly upon the realization that they might not be in good enough shape, or don’t know how to dance well enough. The pros may make it hard on the the men trying out for different reasons. Perhaps they only want the best but also they may be threatened because everyone is replaceable as in every job. A big movie of the movie is how the male dances use the art of seduction to play with feelings and make money.
This fabulous documentary breaks the illusion that these men are considered gods every night and humanizes them. They are doing this job because they are searching for the best from themselves, it’s lot of fun and as well as other reasons but do feel safe and more confident in this big family which is La Bare. Manganiello’s movie is a psychological journey on male dancers’ lives but also a psychological journey as a spectator. Because as a spectator, we pass through a lot of emotions and prejudices that are surprising, fun and we see the sadness, acceptance and joy. No matter what you think of this documentary once you have finished it you will not see male dancers in the same light again.
Marion Schreiber has a Master Degree in Cultural Management from University Aix Marseille III & a Master Degree in Communication and Events from La Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris. Her passions include film, travel and anything to do with the Arts.