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Long time partners in crime Madonna and Steven Klein join forces again for one of the most talked about hashtags of the year #SecretProjectRevolution
After months of rumors on the nature of this project, the Queen of Pop unveiled this 17 minute black and white short film, directed by Klein with one ambitious intention: to start a revolution of love.
A few minutes into the film, we see Madonna brutally imprisoned by some guards, and a quote from French director Jean-Luc Godard appears,
“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl”
As we see Madonna walking through her tour dancers, shooting each one of them in cold blood along the notes of the sumptuous “Satin Birds” by Abel Korzeniowski, who composed the music for her last directorial effort “W.E”, there is a very honest and necessary moment of revelation. “I want to start a revolution but no one is taking me seriously. Instead I am a woman, I am blond, and I have an insatiable desire to be noticed”.
A claustrophobic scene is set before our very eyes where her body is scrutinized as she does what people want her to do: being provocative and obscene. “Show us your ass” is heard in the background, and it is vital for the integrity of the film to make this statement: she doesn’t care what we think of her, she never did after all, but this time it is important to listen to what she has to say. Madonna makes herself vulnerable and reachable, showing her bare naked soul, resulting more outrageous than the times when she was simulating masturbation on stage in the 90′s, performing “Live To Tell” on a cross like Jesus Christ during her Confessions Tour, or showing her ass during last year MDNA Tour. Yes, she did all of these things and many more but… “still… I want to start a revolution”.
During one of her most in-depth interview in years with Vice, who curated with Madonna the global digital Art For Freedom initiative, she explained how the Secret Project is not something she wanted to do but a manifesto that needed to be divulged. She started noticing how the world was collapsing and things that went against the rights of human beings and artists – “I can’t separate the two of them by the way”.
Israel was about to bomb Iran as soon as her last tour started, Pussy Riot was sentenced, and 87 people were arrested by the police during her show in St. Petersburg for being gay. In France, far-right politician Marie Le Pen sent skinhead to boycott her concert, and while young Malala was shot simply for wanting to go to school, in America people live in a state of complacency, “What is a life and death situation in other countries is taken for granted in America”. By the time the tour arrived in South America Madonna was on fire, outraged and decided to shoot with Steven a series of shots where dancers were expressing themselves and their interior struggle improvising dance moves. The rest was added later on as the project shaped, born from a pure, unorganised stream of consciousness.
Madonna aims to represent herself not only an artist but a human being imprisoned by people who are afraid of anyone who is different. There is a dark and sinister atmosphere in the film with Klein’s unmistakable style and enhanced by the music that guides us through a world of violence for no reason. A lingering possibility of redemption is also present though and is up to us to grab it because “the enemy is not out there, the enemy is within”.
“I used to think I had a thick skin but now I feel like I’ve been skinned alive”, says Madonna’s narrating voice to metaphorically portray the death of an artist and of creativity in this world of branding. The most moving part is an androgynous looking and almost naked dancer, flowing along the sublime notes of the exquisite “Evgeni’s Waltz”, dancing for his life under the eyes of the guards.
At this year’s Billboard Awards she said “I have the best dancers” and this is true, they defy gravity and the limit of dance styles’ definitions. This scene is inspired by a controversial 1974 art film by Italian director Liliana Cavani, The Night Porter Madonna explains, “Nazis allowed Jews to stay alive if they had a talent. They wanted to be entertained” and this is why dancer Chaz Buzan is fighting with its own, rare, unique art as the guards watch intrigued, amazed and repulsed at the same time. He dances with no labels or limits and Madonna singing the American National Anthem in this scenario may just be the biggest provocation of her career.
A baby carriage is burning, reminding of the iconic scene of the baby in the carriage falling down the Odessa Steps in the film Battleship Potemkin, a prisoner is beaten up and Madonna is crying before hiding under her cell bed. Even the most famous, successful woman and icon of our times is afraid. “Why did I let doubt into my belief system? WHY?” she sorrowfully asks herself. Parts of speeches given on stage during the tour are playing from the speakers, “We can change this, we have the power, you cannot use religion or God’s name to treat other people badly!” This revolution is not about religion, politics, or taxes and it is not going to be an app on our iPhones. It is a revolution to affirm our right to be who we are, someone unique, rare, and fearless without seeking approval from anyone.
There is no happy ending; the revolution is on, and for real. The Secret Project has been premiered where a revolution is supposed to happen: on the streets. Madonna always managed to make people come together with her music and always promoted freedom of expression during her shows. We can easily say that her whole career stands for this and like her or not, her voice is always strong.
Four screenings of the film took place during the same day in London, LA, Rome, Berlin, Tel Aviv and many other cities in the world giving a true and straightforward feel of urgency about this serious cause. The Queen of the revolution was in NYC at the Gagosian Gallery introducing this project as “the most important thing in my life, aside from my children” and singing a mesmerising rendition of Elliot Smith’s 1977 song “Between The Bars” while her son Rocco was dancing besides her. Is her new music going to be influenced by this state of mind? We hope so.
“Incarceration of any kind makes you want to fight for your freedom and I am attracted to that”, Madonna continues in the interview. She has always been inspired by revolutionary women, and artists, like painter Frida Kahlo, dancer Martha Graham and poetess Anne Sexton since her childhood. She is a freedom fighter right now and the photo posted on Instagram of the golden grillz she has been wearing recently, laying on the map of the world, means that she is ready to conquer the world all over again. Other artists will be invited to this movement but everyone can and must share their experiences through videos, music, poetry and photography on the Art For Freedom website or by tagging their posts #artforfreedom. Innocence has been lost, civilization has lost empathy, and this is an emotional revolution to make people understand that they have a voice and someone who will fight for them. “I’m in this for real, I will fight and go as far as I have to go” is Madonna’s promise, pleasure, and pain.
“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you” Jean Paul Sartre
“Are you with me?” and “What does freedom mean to you?” are Madonna’s and Steven Klein’s questions. Join the revolution by sharing your view and who you are through your art, even if you haven’t been directly persecuted.
To take part, visit ArtForFreedom