We want the performance. We don’t want the performer. We want the art. We don’t want the artist. It makes us uncomfortable. It’s easier, far easier, to laud the results of genius but ignore the often flawed process.
That is until someone lets us see the process. If done the right way, their confession draws us closer. Enter Netflix’s documentary on the creative process of one Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, “Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two.”
Gaga, as everyone calls her, has created a public persona that is as much performance art as her music. That makes it hard to separate the performance from the truth. Maybe she isn’t always sure herself. Where does the persona of Lady Gaga end and the individual begin?
Anything as aggressively billed as “authentic” as Five Foot Two leaves the viewer questioning what is truth versus what Gaga wants us to think is truth. In the end, isn’t that what we’re all doing?
Gaga’s process is meticulous. She thinks about details, like how the fit of a sleeve will affect a mid-performance costume change. She wants us to be moved, and expresses confidence in her ability to so. She knows she’s immensely talented, and she isn’t afraid to take big swings, even if she strikes out.
At the same time, she isn’t nearly as confident as she would have us believe. Here’s an example. She desperately wants her grandmother to be as moved by a song she wrote about her aunt as she is herself. It’s not clear that she was successful.
She has a chip on her shoulder about the music industry. It’s not clear that she can really get past the fact the Madonna finds her derivative. She holds a grudge or two against unnamed music industry players. She shouldn’t care. She knows that. But here we are.
She takes us to the doctor with her. She’s shows us her physical pain. Everyone can demonstrate physical pain, and no one who’s been a dance performer for more than a few years has a normal body. She’s in more pain than most even taking that into account.
That alone wouldn’t draw us closer, but combined with the candid moments of emotional vulnerability, we get to see an artist who wants to move us and will do whatever it takes to do so. That’s what makes for a compelling documentary.
For the first track of her album, Joanne, Gaga wrote, “I might not be flawless, but you know I’ve got a diamond heart.” In Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two, she shows us the truth in that statement.
You might like Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two if: You are intrigued by the creative process.
You might not like Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two if: Inside show biz documentaries, even well made ones, put you to sleep.
(C) 2017 D.G. McCabe