Tattoo Uprising

Sometimes a tattoo is just ink on skin.

We all want to believe the things that interest us are Important Things, but even by that standard Alan Govenar’s documentary Tattoo Uprising takes an inflated view of its subject, the history of tattooing. The word “uprising” is generally associated with slave revolts, for starters, and it doesn’t help that Uprising begins with context-free footage of a smiling Japanese woman serving drinks to white men in a jacuzzi, intercut with a white woman in cowgirl garb slowly removing her top to reveal a tattooed chest. Nothing shakes up the status quo like colonialism and heteronormative pandering, huh? (Suffice it to say, we see no #MeToo tattoos.)

Tattoo Uprising is most interesting when it makes use of rare or never-seen footage from past documentaries, such as Les Blank and Werner Herzog showing off their dueling tattoos in a Burden of Dreams outtake. But Govenar’s stated conclusion that tattooing has gone “from being the most forbidden art form in the Western world to one of the most common” is debatable at best — the most forbidden? Really? This proclamation is rather hilariously set over a montage of tattoo-shop storefronts that could be reused as-is in a documentary about economically depressed neighborhoods. On the plus side, Burning Man isn’t mentioned in Tattoo Uprising at all. That would be truly revolting.

Not rated. Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.

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