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Pamela Anderson, Penélope Cruz, italo disco… 5 documentaries to watch this summer on Arte

For its subtitled summer programming Summer of Passion, Arte has dreamed big. Movies (Lady Chatterley, Good work), and concerts (Prince, Amy Winehouse, Rolling Stones) showcasing love, incandescence and sexuality will air throughout August. You can also discover, on the channel’s website, unpublished documentaries dedicated to Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, to Penélope Cruz or to a musical genre as kitsch and flamboyant as it is underestimated: italo disco.

1. Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee – sex, romance and video (2022) by Francois Chaumont

After the excellent Disney+ series broadcast last February, Pam & Tommy, devoted to the sextape of the sulphurous couple formed by the cartoonish playmate and actress Pamela Anderson and the very tattooed drummer of the group Mötley Crüe, Tommy Lee, a documentary produced by Arte looks back on their sulphurous affair. The program, available on the channel’s website, details this scandalous love story which prefigured the era of social networks and the absence of privacy. The documentary evokes in particular the very first meeting between the actress ofBaywatch and the Mötley Crüe drummer, before the sex tape affair. The two stars crossed paths at the Sanctuary Club on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip – in which Pamela Anderson had shares – on New Year’s Eve 1994. Very attracted to the tattooed bad boy, it was the then 27-year-old playmate who takes the first step by offering him a shot of alcohol, Goldschläger. Very receptive, “he came over and licked my face“, will later tell the heroine of Barbwire (1996) at Movielineadding: “I thought he was a cool, friendly, nice guy. I gave him my number.” In crisp memories of Mötley Crüe, The Dirt (which were the subject of a terrific Netflix biopic), Tommy Lee revealed that that night he was under the influence of ecstasy and Champagne Cristal. Something to add a little more spice to the start of a wild romance.

2. Penélope Cruz, reflections of passion (2022) by Charles-Antoine de Rouvre

The muse of Pedro Almodóvar, sex symbol and wife of Javier Bardem Penélope Cruz deserved a documentary. It’s done with this subtitled Arte production Reflections of passion. The Spanish actress trained in classical dance succeeded in Hollywood without locking herself too much into the caricatural roles of Latin bimbo (if we dismiss Vicky Cristina Barcelona and his shots of Spanish women). She has both shot in adventurous independent films like the sensual Ham, Ham (1992) by Bigas Luna than major American films like Vanilla Sky (2001), alongside Tom Cruise. Through archival footage, film clips and vintage interviews of the star, Arte portrays a sunny, fiery, hardworking and daring actress, and attempts to unravel the mysteries of her charm, which has not took a wrinkle.

3. Italo Disco – The shimmering sound of the 80s (2021) by Alessandro Melazzini

This erudite German documentary has the merit of highlighting a musical genre unfairly perceived as old-fashioned. Behind its kitsch and mercantile aesthetic, italo disco, synthetic music that emerged at the end of the 70s in the land of Dante, is full of musical pearls that have influenced artists such as Daft Punk. If we would have liked to see more excerpts from delirious clips from the 80s (the flagship decade of italo disco), we savor the many interviews with producers and musicians (such as the group La Bionda) who participated in this movement and images of vintage Italian beaches and nightclubs.

4. Janet Jackson: Before and After the Nipplegate Scandal (2021) by Jodi Gomes

Like the recent documentaries dedicated to Britney Spears, this program broadcast on Arte allows us to see the career of Janet Jackson, who paved the way for celebrities like Cardi B and Beyoncé, in a new light. Like many pop stars of the 90s and 2000s, the singer was the subject of misogynistic and inappropriate media treatment. The show looks back at the “Nipplegate”, the scandal that cost Michael Jackson’s sister her career. In 2004, during the Super Bowl, Justin Timberlake, by an accidental gesture, lets glimpse a breast of Janet Jackson in front of the amazed eyes of millions of viewers. The star was then at the height of her notoriety, but America did not forgive the artist for having offended her. The Arte documentary notes that this is partly due to the racism and sexism prevailing in the United States.

5. Patrick Swayze – actor and dancer by passion (2019) by Derik Murray

He is without doubt one of the most touching and fascinating actors in Hollywood.. Patrick Swayze marked the 80s and 90s with both physical and very emotional roles in dirty dancing (1987), Ghost (1990) or even point break (1991). He exuded a nuanced masculinity, at once very athletic, sensual and graceful. This American documentary broadcast on Arte shows the fragile and talented man who hid behind the sex symbol, dancer, singer and actor who died in 2009. Originally from Texas, Patrick Swayze has always been someone different and sensitive, attracting criticism from his comrades for his unusual passions (such as ballet). The program, packed with interviews (including with his on-screen partners Demi Moore and Jennifer Gray and those close to him) reveals a boy who was undeterred (despite a knee injury, bipolar disorder and alcoholism) and who fought until the end.

Find all the “Summer of Passion” programs on arte.tv/summer.

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