The new documentary “Dzi Croquettes” brings to mind San Francisco’s legendary gender-bending Cockettes, a collection of drag performers who made no effort to hide their more masculine attributes. But the Dzi Croquettes, a 1970s-era troupe whose members also celebrated their bodies while clad in glitter and spangles, were a much bigger deal.
Lennie Dale, a virtuoso Broadway dancer and émigré to Brazil, founded the 13-member group in 1973. Their productions were lavish explosions of creativity and imagination that had wide audience appeal. More significantly, the group flourished at a time of extreme repression under a harsh military dictatorship; Brazil’s government shut them down only to be persuaded to let the show go on.
For “Dzi Croquettes” director Tatiana Issa, daughter of the group’s set designer, and her co-director/executive producer Raphael Alvarez have rounded up the five surviving Croquettes, their backstage colleagues and a raft of Brazilian stars to speak to the group’s lasting impact. The filmmakers also interviewed choreographer Ron Lewis and Liza Minnelli, both close friends and admirers of the late Dale.
The extensive performance footage illustrates just how electrifying these entertainers were. Dzi Croquettes transcended camp with inspired artistry and achieved moments of poignancy amid much exhilaration. “Dzi Croquettes” is both a tribute and a terrific entertainment.
“Dzi Croquettes.” No MPAA rating. In Portuguese and English with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At Laemmle’s Sunset 5, West Hollywood.