The outrageous and erotic world of contemporary burlesque is the focus of director Deirdre Timmons’ documentary lens—and considering we’re about to watch a dozen barely-clad, voluptuous women fondle feathers and hang from trapeze ribbons, it’s a mystery how Timmons manages to make it such a snooze. It’s not that a doc on burlesque should serve as a soft-core peep show, but focusing her film on Miss Indigo Blue’s 6-week course, Burlesque 101, at her Academy of Burlesque in Seattle is perhaps where the problem lies; these women are nice, regular gals, with the same body-image hang-ups that plague their not-so-risqué sisters, and that’s just not very interesting—although it is a point to be noted. Timmons does include some brief history of burlesque and how it originated as a male sport of parody—but watching a drag queen vixen strut his stuff seems more appropriate in a film about drag queens and not in one about women seeking to free themselves from the shackles of male objectivism and reclaim their feminine power. Delving more into the personal lives of the students would have been welcome—they age between 21-51 years old and include university students, an opera singer, an admin assistant and a taxidermist who keeps animal bodies in zip-locked bags in her freezer. There are stories here, to be sure—Timmons just fails to frame them in a compelling way.
A Wink and a Smile: The Art of Burlesque, First Run Features. 90 min. Unrated. List price: $24.95.