Madon

May 12, 1991|By Tom Jacobs | Tom Jacobs,Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES (NAME) FILM SHOWS THAT HER PUBLIC IMAGE REFLECTS HER TRUE PERSONALITY — Los Angeles--I refuse to feel ashamed by anything I do."

So sayeth Madonna. And so liveth Madonna, if the new documentary "Truth or Dare" captures anything remotely resembling real life.

Alek Keshishian's movie, which documents the onstage, backstage and after-hours happenings on her three-continent "Blonde Ambition" tour, paints a portrait of an almost totally uninhibited woman. The superstar pop singer celebrates her sexuality, both on stage and off.

The documentary, which opens in Baltimore Friday, portrays a multifaceted Madonna, one who can be demanding and imperious as well as generous and giving. She seldom is more relaxed and loose than when talking (or teasing) about sex, which she does with some frequency. At one point, during the parlor game reflected in the film's title, she even demonstrates her technique.

If such footage accurately reflects her personality -- and Mr.Keshishian swears she's pretty much the same, on camera and off -- her work, which is often accused of being nothing more than audience-pleasing titillation, is an honest reflection of her own being.

"I was raised in a traditional Catholic environment," she told reporters at a recent press junket. "Shame and sin and guilt were a big part of how I was raised. I guess I'm trying to cast off those feelings through my work."

Moreover, she's trying to convince her fans to cast off those feelings as well.

"There's nothing to be ashamed of to say you're gay or you're an alcoholic," she said. "Everybody has family problems. All of these things exist in life.

"People are made to feel ashamed to say they have these problems or they are this way. They're considered horrible things. I'm saying they're not."

Do not assume from such comments, however, that the singer is purely a creature of the flesh. As the film documents, Madonna gathers her dancers and musicians together before every performance for an informal group prayer.

"I don't think guilt and shame are synonymous with prayer," she said. "My problem with the Catholic church is it has always separated sexuality and spirituality. They're not allowed to coexist in the same room. They're both a part of the human essence.

"A person can be spiritual, can be sensual, can be sexual. These things make up a human being. The problem is, in organized religion, they're always trying to separate them. You're bad if you have sexual feelings, when that's part of life.

"Making love to a person can be a spiritual experience, a religious experience."

Obviously, this is a message not everyone can accept easily -- especially coming from a woman. As Mr. Keshishian noted, Madonna "is the first sex object to also be the sexual subject."

In other words, she's a female sex symbol who both initiates sex and enjoys it.

"Certainly in the music industry, it's much more acceptable that men act in an overtly sexual way in terms of their performances," Madonna said. "Instead of concentrating on the music and the message, [many people] get bogged down in my sexuality and write off anything that I may have to say."

The singer added that she expects that kind of criticism "to a certain extent." She added, however, that "I would be disappointed if the message I was trying to convey was falling on deaf ears completely.

No doubt she will reach still more people with this film, on which she served as executive producer. According to Mr. Keshishian, the original idea was to make a concert video; the backstage material would simply be used as filler between numbers.

But after shooting 30 hours of backstage material during the first leg of the tour in Japan, Mr. Keshishian thought he had the makings of a fascinating documentary. At his request, Madonna watched some excerpts.

"I told her on the spot that we should make a feature film out of this," he recalled. "On the spot, she agreed. Right then, we decided the performance part we would use only for punctuation" -- a reversal of the original idea.

One of the most intriguing scenes in the movie occurs when Madonna, suffering from a weak voice, gets her throat examined by a physician. Warren Beatty, her then-boyfriend, is hanging around in the background, looking sort of uncomfortable.

When the doctor asks if she really wants to do this on camera, the singer, characteristically, replies, "Why not?" Beatty then remarks that doing something off camera would be irrelevant to Madonna, implying that she lives for the spotlight.

"Warren's just jealous," Madonna said when asked about the scene. "He's jealous that he's not as uninhibited as I am. I'm doing something that he would never be interested in doing.

One scene in which Madonna talks with Mr. Beatty on the telephone did not make the final cut, because of what Mr. Keshishian called "legal reasons." Mr. Beatty's voice was recorded without his knowledge, and the director said it became clear he was not going to give permission for its use.

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