Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Although the movie seems happiest when it is retailing potential scandal, its heart is not in sex but in business, and the central value in the film is the work ethic. Madonna schedules herself for a punishing international tour of mostly one-night stands and then delivers with a clockwork determination, explaining to a family member in Detroit that she can't go out to party because she has to conserve her strength.
Night after night the exhausting show goes on, taking on aspects of a crusade for the cast members. Ironically - given Madonna's onstage use of sacrilege as a prop - every show is preceded by a prayer session, everyone holding hands while Madonna asks God's help and recites a daily list of problems. And when her dancers have personal problems, they come to her as a counselor and mother figure.
She seems to like it that way, and halfway through the film I was even wondering if she deliberately chose insecure dancers with dependent personalities because she enjoyed playing mother to them.
Madonna has kept her act fresh by adopting a long series of public star personas, yet, backstage, people don't relate to her as a star, but as the boss. Her charisma comes not through glitter but through power, and there is never any doubt about exactly who is in charge.