Published Jun 06, 2013Ever the thwarter of convention, Peaches' experimental documentary Peaches Does Herself comes in a faux-concert film format, taking place on a stage with attention paid on adhering to the 180-degree rule. It gives the illusion of live performance despite the show falling more into the category of performance art with a musical component, all of which tells the story of the Canadian electroclash musician from experimental teen years through a cavalcade of sexual experimentation and eschewing of traditional gender roles to the present.
Though the narrative is determined through musical progression and set modification, this world is clearly defined from the outset with a teen Peaches sitting in her bedroom—emblazoned in hot pink and black—programming rudimentary beats and testing out her lyrical threshold for candid discussions of sexuality. It's a simple enough structure that is quickly subverted by the arrival of several lycra-clad dancers that emerge from a vaginal hole on her bed, moving to the beats of her music and contorting into orgiastic positions, covering the gamut of experimental, though implicitly heteronormative, sexual scenarios, whether they be doggy-style, missionary, three-ways or daisy chains.
Soon, her style and aesthetic shifts from hot pink to industrial silver as her music progresses to more of a synthpunk stage, introducing additional instruments and, in turn, an added understanding of sexual performance and female sexuality. It's broken up by quietly prescient comic relief in the form of Sandy Kane (Naked Cowgirl), an aged stripper singing "Shake Your Dixs" while shoving the microphone in her butt crack, not noticing when a tassel falls off her sagging breast.
It's here that Peaches demonstrates her understanding of sexual performance as distinguishable from that of performance art, which then leads to her greater appreciation for the confines of gender. She introduces Danni Daniels, a fully nude transgender dancer and porn star, dancing around Peaches suggesting pride in individuality free from traditionalist constraints.
While some may cry sensationalism, not completely understanding the candid analysis of sexuality that Peaches is trying to present, there's a sense of empowerment and strength that comes from these moments that defies the typically egocentric nature of a work like this. Her skills as a director are limited—aesthetically, there isn't a great deal going on beyond set design and the composition is oft-amateurish—but her ability to communicate an idea through artistic performance is extremely well-honed.
Experimental works rarely come across as accessibly and as clearly as Peaches Does Herself, which, in itself, is quite an achievement, especially for a cross-medium production. (Films We Like)