News from the Locarno Festival

Magic Mike by Steven Soderbergh


Magic Mike is a hyperrealist depiction of Los Angeles, Californian life, and a jaundiced view of the entertainment world: striptease rather than Hollywood stars, nightclub owners rather than movie producers and directors. But the dreams of power and glory, the visible markers of wealth (big cars and beautiful villas), the perks (the easy availability of sex and sexual opportunities, both tied to money and celebrity) are the same, with the added bonus of an ontological void.

Magic Mike is about this artificial, cruel, ridiculous world, and this wonderful film has a disturbing self-reflexive dimension since the actor playing pretty boy Mike, with his shaven body and bronzed muscles, is none other than Channing Tatum, who started out as a stripper before his Hollywood career took off via action blockbusters and teenage romances.

It is disturbing to see such a young actor telling his own story, all the more so as it is relatively common. It is undoubtedly a “success story” but it also lifts the curtain on the dream factory, in all its triviality, and is striking for its clear-sighted and cliché-free take on the whole scene.

In this respect Steven Soderbergh’s position as a filmmaker here feels akin to that of Robert Altman as a laid-back moralist, observer of a world he doesn’t much like but with a fondness for its protagonists, the winners and losers, sympathetic or second-rate in varying degrees, as in The Long Goodbye and California Split, the 70s equivalent to Magic Mike. Always the same dreams and the same stories in that California sunshine.

Olivier Père
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