Madonna does not twerk, but she makes sure you notice her bum. In her just-out film—not a music video—she cavorts with others, totting a gun, and then shoots them, all the while, her derriere firm like no fifty-five year-old’s should be. This is Secret Project Revolution, a much-hyped endeavour that turns out to be for social betterment than personal enrichment.
I have always associated Madonna with the book Sex, the game Truth or Dare, and the music video Erotica. This 17-minute, black-and-white short has all three in it, but the message is not immediately clear. In the introduction, she says, “Economic markets are collapsing, people all over the world are suffering, and people are afraid. What happens when people are afraid? They become intolerant, they start pointing the figure at other people: they say, ‘you’re the reason, you’re the problem, you’re to blame. Get out!’ The enemy is not out there; the enemy is within.” It does not sound convincing.
The corniness of the message could be faulted, but it’s also Madonna’s voice: it’s like hearing Sarah Palin preach. It is debatable whether Madonna can sing, but her speaking voice is not one that can convey, let alone cajole—more evident with the inclusion of the opening of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. After five minutes of the film, she’s starting to sound wordy. “I want to start a revolution of love,” she continued. “And this revolution will overcome all fears and all suffering and all separations, and it will include all people; black, white, Christian, Chinese, Muslim, Jew, gay, straight, bisexual, fat, thin, handicapped, rich, poor, artistic, autistic. Fuck labels. I hate labels. We’re on the ship together, sailing like a burning sphere across the sea… burn, baby, burn.” And, shortly, it shows a pram in flames. But it isn’t a combustion of irony.
After Miley Cyrus’s recent videos, Madonna’s latest short is compelling if not artistic, but the images are not always clear in their intended messages. Shot by Steven Klein, a fashion photographer first then a film maker, it comprises several stylish scenes that shift from what could be the set for Saw to a jail house featuring incarceration abuse. Unable to shake off her fashion credentials, she’s impeccably dressed throughout, despite the alleged injustice she was witnessing.
“We want to fight for the right to be free,” she vocalises to what sounds like an adoring crowd—shades of Evita—towards the end, and as she says, “we all deserve love,” Madonna sounds almost evangelical. It is tempting to wonder if she ever thought that, while amusing herself with crucifies and images of the Madonna in her early days, it will come to this: the year’s biggest personal social responsibility exercise.
In his 1964 book, The Act of Creation, Arthur Koestler wrote, “The decisive turning points in the history of every art form… uncover what has already been there; they are “revolutionary”, that is destructive and constructive, they compel us to revalue our values and impose new sets of rules on the eternal game.”
The Secret Project Revolution may be a turning point for Madonna, but I am not sure if it will succeed in being world-shattering.