Maria Waters has reviewed the Region 2 release of In Bed With Madonna. The controversial warts-and-all documentary that followed the rowdy exploit of Madonna on her world tour.
In 1990 Madonna was one of the biggest recording artists in the world and anything she did made news. The Blonde Ambition tour was possible the pinnacle of this mass media frenzy. So of course she did what any artist wanting to keep their enigma and magic would do. She commisioned a warts and all movie.
Of course no less than two years later she would reveal(literally!) all in her book ‘Sex’ and the video for the single ‘Erotica’, but this documentary is definitively more revealing as it really gets down to Madonna and what she is like in ‘private’. However as undisputed Queen of Media manipulation what you see is never what you get and she in fact spends the whole of the documentary showing you the image she had conceived at the time and making you think of her what she wants you to think.
She is in turns protective and abusive to her dancers and crew, (in fact she’s pretty unpleasant to everyone and you get the impression she would be a far nicer person if she didn’t get her own way all the time) We also get to see her interacting with her father, who she has in the past claimed to have been afraid of, but her she treats him more like a slightly dotty old uncle. Then of course there is the famous Kevin Costner ‘incident’. The feeling that you get is that she’s behaving childishly and rudely…then you remember that the object of ridicule is Kevin Costner and she is forgiven all!
At the time of filming she was in the middle of her affair with Warren Beatty and you get lots of shots of him being weary of her antics, as if he has seen it all before and knows she is mugging for the camera. This is an impression that you get with her two female dancers as well. These are the people closest to her (at the time) and you get the feeling that they know her better, but don’t dare pull apart her fantasy.
Where it really shines is in the concert footage. Whatever can be said about Madonna, she is a consummate performer, and every song included is inventive and interesting to watch. To say that when she is singing the film comes to life is an understatement, and highlighted by the fact that backstage footage is black and white, while concert film is in colour. Classics like Express Yourself (complete with half naked male dancers naturally!) Holiday and Vogue all look better than ever, and the amazing Jean Paul Gaulter costumes only add to this feel. This is probably the best tour that Madonna ever did and was certainly not topped by 2001’s Drowned World tour.
Alex Keshishian probably believed in this that he was filming the definitive biography of Madonna; naturally Madonna had the last laugh and has gotten a video record that cause controversy upon release and now serves as a wonderful juxtaposition to her current ‘Earth Mother’ image. It would have been interesting to see if Keshishian had been give such ‘free access’ to back stage at her more recent concerts, would he have had anything nearly as interesting as the spin the bottle scenes or would there have been much yoga and playing with the kids? The Madonna of today is a far nicer and better-rounded person, but not nearly as interesting to watch.
This is presented in anamorphic widescreen and looks good all the way through. The black and white of the backstage footage often looks grainy but this is probably intentional to show how ‘gritty’ and ‘real’ this is supposed to be.
In Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo this dvd doesn’t sound anything like as good as it should do. The documentary portions are fine although some of the talking is a little garbled (again, probably for the ‘realism’) but in the concert footage the absence of a better sound mix is missed.
This is one of MGM’s budget releases and as such has no real extras other than a theatrical trailer. Given the amount of promotional material available at the time it could have been a lot heavier on the extras front (a making-of might not have been feasible of course!) and some of the original music videos or news reports might have been nice. But given as Madonna has reinvented herself as someone completely opposite to who she is here it’s hard to see her wanting to participate fully in extras.
Its hard to label ‘In Bed with Madonna’ (or Truth or Dare as it was known on its American release) as a documentary as Madonna seems to be acting all the way through it, yet this is not quite a film either. It is, however a brilliant snapshot of the old Madonna that delighted in shocking us all and like any of your past memories is best reminisced on with a wry smile.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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