Miami 2020 Review: THEY CALL ME DR. MIAMI, The Man and the Outrageous Image
I read a quote once that was attributed to Cher, in regards to her plastic surgeries: "If I want to put my tits on my back, that's nobody's business but my own." Whether she actually said it or not, I see the point. If people want butt lifts or tummy tucks or breast augmentation, and they have the money, it's their business. On the other hand, I hate that people (mainly women, but men as well) feel the need for some arbitrary concept of a body which isn't perfect (since that doesn't exist), and that they go to such extreme lengths to get it.
For those who do want it, and have the means, there is Michael Salzhaeur, aka Dr. Miami. He's one of the top surgeons in his field, has a two-year waiting list, and more to the point of the documentary They Call Me Dr. Miami, he has a knack for engaging with clients via social media. His snapchat videos of his surgeries, music videos, and flamboyant persona belie his somwhat typical family life. Dr. Miami is married with five children, and an Orthodox Jew. Director Jean-Simon Chartier paints a fascinating portrait of someone who is both a charasmatic businessman and a introspective family man.
Certainly we live in an age of spectacle; such spectacle desires beautiful people - at least a concept of what the collective has decided is beautiful. So why not advertise the creation of that beauty through spectacle? Dr. Miami and his team (including someone whose sole job is to manage the practice's social media) are open about the work: we see the diagrams, the bodies with marks on them where the incisions will be, the clients' joy both before and after surgery (those who are a bit squeemish might find the surgery videos a little difficult to watch, but these moments are short enough that you can shield your eyes).
Dr. Miami sees himself as making people feel better about themselves - which is true in that his clients feel their bodies are flawed somehow, and he's giving them the self-esteem and confidence they desire. And his extroverted personality and business acumen tells him that advertising as broadly as he does, means he will increase his business. So he appears in rap videos, he does homages to Game of Thrones, there are busty women draped around him. He wants his name prominently on the side of a building, and he makes no apologies for his extravegance (and the success of his practice would suggest he's doing it right).
So there’s Dr. Miami, and then there is Dr. Salzhaeur. He’s happily married to his college sweetheart and they have five children. He practices his religious beliefs: he attends synagogue, he reads the Torah, he prays, they observe the holidays. Of course, as his daughter points out, Judaism states that the human body is a gift from God and should not be tampered with, so on the surface, it would seem that Salzhaeur’s profession is in conflict with this; but in a seriously but healthy debate with his Rabbi, Salzhaeur argues that circumcision is tampering, so how does that add up?
It would seem that not all in the plastic surgery community endorse Dr. Miami’s use of social media, his over-the-top image, and was is seen as a devaluation of the industry through tacky imagery. While it’s never happened in his practice, sometimes people die during or after cosmetic surgery. Given that most of these surgeries are not medically necessary, and most, even if they seem to help people’s self esteem, still contribute to a false idol of bodily perfection, where doers that leave someone with such strong religious faith, a faith that states that this type of interference is against God? Chartier gives some room (though perhaps not enough) to these arguments, even as the film in general paints a fairly rosy picture of Dr. Miami’s profession.
They Call Me Dr. Miami does not seek to expose or endorse the plastic surgery industry as a whole, but rather the spectacle of it through the lens of Dr. Miami, and the way in which Salzhaeur has found - or perhaps more accurately, continues to find - ways to exist as both a commercial image and a private man.
They Call Me Dr Miami will have its online world premiere on the Miami Film Festival's VimeoVOD Channel for 48 hours, April 25th & 26th. There will be an Instagram live q&a session with programmer Lauren Cohen and Dr. Miami himself, on April 26th at 5pm EST. You can watch the trailer and pre-purchase tickets at the channel website.