Capturing the Gaga on film

SOUNDS FAMILIAR By Baby A. Gil

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The film that everybody was said to have been talking about at the recently-concluded Toronto International Film Festival was Gaga: Five Foot Two, an original documentary from Netflix about the famous music star Lady Gaga.

Directed by the Emmy winner Chris Moukarbel, it comes with The Gaga’s wholehearted approval. In fact, the film premiered last Sept. 8 at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto after a stripped down, piano only performance of Bad Romance, by, who else, but Lady Gaga herself.

No need to regret not being there because we can now watch Five Foot Two, by the way that is how tall Gaga is, in its entirety today, Sept. 22, when it is launched globally by Netflix.

Celebrity documentaries are nothing new and music stars are among the best subjects. This is because their usual activities, like video shoots and live shows and the days leading up to these events make for interesting footage. Besides, there is always the music with all those hit songs that improves or enhances anything on screen. Gaga, the film, however, downplays these stuff and chooses instead to focus on the ordinary but as it turned out, truly remarkable woman behind the pop star.

Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta to an Upper East Side family in New York. She attended a private Catholic girls’ school and later took courses at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute and at the New York University. She dropped out when she was 19 to work on her music. It took her three years, plus a move to Los Angeles to make it to the top with her album The Fame Monster. Gaga has since then become one of the most talented singers and most exciting stars to emerge in recent times.

She actually proved to be more than that. Gaga turned out to be fascinating, unpredictable and often provocative. Remember how she attended an awards night in a meat dress? Remember how she wrapped herself as in a cocoon for another occasion? And what about those masks? 

But whatever controversy she reaped with her antics all took a back seat to the genius of her music and her stunning voice. Remember her incredible duets with Tony Bennett? Remember how she wowed the legendary Julie Andrews when she performed a medley of songs from The Sound of Music one Oscar night two years ago?

How Lady Gaga is today 10 years after her stunning Monster debut is the subject of Moukarbel’s highly entertaining film. It covers a year in the life of a music icon and she allows him to get close, very close. In between introducing her by the sole of her sequined boot, she is being hoisted up in the air while in rehearsal and that career high event, her half-time Superbowl performance, Moukarbel zeroes in on the girl, which despite fame and money is actually just like everybody if, albeit more hardworking than some.

There is Gaga in her mansion. Tastefully furnished I must say. Gaga driving around in a vintage convertible. Light blue and nothing ostentatious. Gaga with her family, kidding around, singing for her father and grandmother, with her dogs, going to Walmart, crying over pain from a breakup with Chicago Fire actor Taylor Kinney, crying over pain from an old hip injury and the onset of fibromyalgia. And then there is Gaga at work.

Work at the time of the shoot was with producer Mark Ronson, very handsome, by the way, for her 2016 album titled Joanne. Joanne is her middle name and also the name of an aunt who died very young of lupus. This is the one where she goes a bit country and wears that pretty pink hat on the cover pic. She is emotionally distraught but still all business in the studio, singing, playing the piano and going into details about the album.

Work, too, is playing Scathach in the series American Horror Story: Roanoke. And work, too, is the Superbowl LI performance last February. Her show was one of the best and most critically acclaimed in the history of the annual event. Again she is all business, although she must have been in great physical pain.

Moukarbel keeps things real throughout, preferring to highlight the mundane instead of the sensational aspects of Gaga’s life that we usually hear about. It is a sweet intimate portrait told with sharp focus and fluid editing. It is not like the Lady Gaga we know at all. But then I guess that is the purpose of Five Foot Two, to show us the warm, caring, sensitive individual that Lady Gaga really is.

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