Rize, the vibrant documentary from still-photographer and music video director David LaChapelle, takes "clowning" to a new level of cool.
There's something quite trendy about how urban culture is affected by high speed dances like clowning or its latest variation, krumping. A conflagration of tribal dancing and orgiastic religious rhythmic movements gives each frame a pulsating dynamism that may seem too sultry for some.
LaChapelle's slickly realized effort has as its central figure Tommy the Clown or Tommy Johnston. After the Rodney King riots of 1992 this cleaned-up ex-con appeared at children's parties as a dancing clown. He would help advance the clowning dance by tutoring youngsters who looked and performed the part. Then, krumping would emerge as a more forward, alternative version that would take off like an alternative to being a gang member.
In a relatively short running time there's insight into the tribulations of these performers with the result having an unexpected spiritual catharsis to it. The growth of the two styles culminates with a face-off at Los Angeles's Great Western Forum while Johnston's home is turned upside down.
Rize never shirks from its harsh origins and how its passion is a release from something harrowing. The sign of the times is spasmodically demonstrated by LaChapelle with aggressiveness in cultural ideology that transcends racial and class boundaries.