Let’s get the hoary ol’ cliche out of the way right off: sex sells. That’s a formula relied upon by anyone involved in the media — including podcast producers hoping to up their hit counts (and thus, permit me a moment to address the search engines directly: sex, sex, sexity, sex, sex, sex. And, in conclusion, boobies) — and it’s certainly something wholeheartedly embraced by the practitioners of burlesque. Thing is, as revealed by director Deirdre Timmons in her new documentary, A WINK AND A SMILE, contemporary burlesque has started throwing a little post-modern self-awareness into the stew, making performances both the rip-roarin’ celebrations of undulating flesh they always were, and more knowing send-ups of the self-same celebrations, calling into question notions of beauty, eros, and the proper deployment of brightly dyed feathers.
Fortunately, Timmons — who herself has spent some time strutting the stage — knows enough to balance her doc’s intellect with the stuff that gets the (fully clothed) butts into the seats: performances that range from the genuinely erotic to the raucously satirical (better brace yourself for Ernie von Schmaltz, a cross-dressing female performer who flaunts a prosthetic pot-belly and prodigious faux chest hair). Come for boobs, hang around for the brains — now that’s what I call a full-service documentary.
Here’s my interview with Timmons.
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