Exposed: Film Review
Beth B's revealing documentary profiles eight current burlesque artists.
Veteran underground filmmaker Beth B cannily taps into the current renaissance of burlesque with her enlightening documentary profiling eight current practitioners of the venerable entertainment form. Allowing its subjects to bare their souls as much as their bodies, Exposed is as frequently moving as it is entertaining. Audiences for the first week of its exclusive New York City theatrical engagement are in for a special treat, as evening screenings are accompanied by live performances by one or more of the film’s stars.
The disparate figures on display via interviews and clips of their acts include Bambi the Mermaid, Bunny Love, Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz, Mat Fraser, Rose Wood, World Famous *BOB* and Tigger! Each delivers insightful comments about their chosen profession that reflect their obvious pride in what they do. “I’m offering them a view of freedom,” one attests, while another declares, “If I can blow some people’s minds at a show, I’m doing them a great favor.”
They are a disparate lot indeed. Transgender performer Rose Wood, who describes her approach to her art as “trans-aggressive,” wanted to be a rabbi when she was young and now plays one in her act. Dirty Martini originally wanted to be a dancer, a profession denied to her due to her zaftig proportions that she now joyously unveils.
The most affecting subjects are Muz and Fraser, a real-life couple frequently seen being interviewed while they’re naked in bed. Not an uncommon state for either of them, as evidenced by the scenes from their solo and combined acts and the former’s comment that “being naked for me is a pleasure.” Fraser has enjoyed a successful burlesque and theater career despite the fact that his arms are malformed due to his mother having taken thalidomide when she was pregnant. He jokes about it frequently in his act, and ironically describes how he gets propositioned afterward by “women who would never hit on me in real life.”
Several of the performers deliver insightful comments about their art, making a careful distinction between mere stripping and striptease. Disappointingly, however, the film provides little historical context about burlesque, with the exception of brief clips of such '50s era performers as Dixie Evans and Vickie Lynn. While less is more -- especially when it comes to clothing in this case -- it wouldn’t have hurt for Exposed to have provided a little more exposure of past artists who paved the way.
Opens March 14 (B Productions, Schulberg Productions)
Director: Beth B
Producers: Beth B, Sandra Schulberg
Directors of photography: Dan Karlok, Beth B
Editors: Beth B, Keith Reamer
Composer: Jim Coleman
Not rated, 77 minutes