By Solarina Ho
TORONTO (Reuters) – In “Gaga: Five Foot Two”, director Chris Moukarbel captures the artist hidden behind the outrageous costumes, revealing a woman unafraid to express her vulnerabilities and exercise her agency.
“This is me with nothing,” Lady Gaga says in the film.
The Netflix documentary, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, follows Lady Gaga over an eight-month period leading up to her Super Bowl Halftime performance in February 2017.
It’s an intimate and often raw look at the real Lady Gaga, Stefani Joanne Germanotta, roughly a decade after she exploded into the pop culture scene with her debut, “Just Dance”.
Moukarbel said the film was a rare opportunity to shine a light on a story that people thought they were already familiar with, describing the singer as powerful, yet vulnerable.
He told audiences after the premiere that the biggest challenge to filming Gaga’s life was “how to narrow the scope when it’s about somebody whose life is so big and vast.”
“With her life, it’s just like this daily whiplash which she’s experiencing, as you saw, and I tried to capture that.”
The film depicts that “whiplash”, juxtaposing the public Lady Gaga with the personal Germanotta.
An interview with the New York Times about her new single “Joanne” is book-ended by a call from a dying friend, Sonja Durham, and an emotional visit to her grandmother, who listens to her new song about her aunt Joanne for the first time.
Durham passed away earlier this year and the film is dedicated to her memory.
Lady Gaga, who performed a ballad version of “Bad Romance” before the film screening, watched the documentary for the first time on Friday.
“I was very overwhelmed watching it,” she told audiences afterwards, calling the film an authentic look at her life.
One moment she is elegantly turned out for a christening, surrounded by family, another moment she is wrapped in a towel, crying from the chronic pain that resulted from a hip fracture several years ago.
In the film, Lady Gaga’s vulnerabilities are on display: the depression and trauma caused by the hip injury, reflections on her self-image, being alone, turning 30, her dealings with men.
But she also talks extensively about finding empowerment and validation from within, as well as the power and influence of music on her life.
“Sometimes it’s like open heart surgery, making music. It’s invasive.”
(Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)