A Wink And A Smile

"OK"

A Wink And A Smile Review


In Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, an ex-stripper turned society gal relives her past, singing the spritely and sarcastic tune "Zip!" -- "Zip! Walt Lippman wasn't brilliant today / Zip! Will Saroyan ever write a great play? / Zip! I was reading Schopenhauer last night / Zip! And I think that Schopenhauer was right / Zip! I'm an intellectual!" All this as she is peeling off her garments.

In Diedre Allen Timmons's new documentary A Wink and a Smile, the Zip! attitude is out in force. Centering the film on Miss Indigo Blue's Burlesque 101 Class at the Academy of Burlesque in Seattle, Timmons follows a class of ten women of all ages and sizes as they progress through the six-week class and learn about themselves while practicing striptease and burlesque, their final dissertation being a group performance at a local club.

All the gals are learning the bump and grind of striptease and bark removal... but not to become the new Gypsy Rose Lee, Lil St. Cyr, or Jennie "The Bazoom Girl" Lee. Taking the burlesque course for these modern babes is not just to learn the art of the tease but as a means to another end. An opera singer wants to take the burlesque class so that she can be more comfortable on stage and closer to her own oeuvre. A young taxidermist is seeking self-fulfillment. And a quirky older woman wants to "bring back the art of the sagging breast."

But although Timmons follows the women through the six not-so-grueling weeks and has them comment on their feelings and progression in the course, she centers the film on Miss Indigo Blue, who is serious, self-important, and stern as she gives her burlesque course the same gravitas as if she were offering a class in nuclear physics or global warming. She speaks of empowerment and of sexy clothes-shedding as supporting women through their bodies and improving their body images. She also demonstrates to her undergraduates how to perform a pussy check. But in the end, A Wink and a Smile is not so much about empowering women or a tribute to the exaggerated tease as it is a promotional film for Miss Indigo Blue's Burlesque 101 course. I am sure the film will be a great curriculum vitae for Ms. Blue if she ever wants to land a job teaching in MIT's health and wellness program.

Timmons follows the course progression week by week and the sessions are reeled off as Burlesque 101 Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and so on, with the dogged precision of tracer bullets, all climaxing in the grand class performance at the strip club. But the ending turns out to be no climax at all, just quickly edited snippets of each student's act. One would think after the time spent on documenting the class week by week, Timmons could at least have given an uninterrupted presentation of some of the student performances. As it is, there is no sense of whether the students triumphed or smelled like herrings in the moonlight. The film plays like a class taught by a tenured professor: Okay, class is over; time to prepare for the next group of students.

The saving grace of the film is the complete performances of class acts of neo-burlesque -- The Shanghai Pearl, Tamara the Trapeze Lady, The Swedish Housewife, Waxie Moon, Vienna le Rouge, Lily Verlaine, Kitten la Ru, Inga Ingénue, Ernie von Schmaltz, and Ultra -- padding out the more mundane burlesque workshop sessions. Particularly impressive is Waxie Moon (a female impersonator from Boylesque) appearing mustachioed in a white wedding gown and proceeding to strip down, Ernie von Schmaltz's psychotic gyrations, and, greatest of all, Lily Verlaine's "empowering" nude display as she pours paint over her body, ending up looking like a living art work in her "Picasso piece."

Too bad the Burlesque 101 students didn't pull off anything like that. But then again, with Timmons's abbreviated editing of the class project, maybe some student did. We'll just never know.

Feeling blue?



A Wink And A Smile

Facts and Figures

Run time: 91 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 28th May 2008

Box Office Worldwide: $19.5 thousand

Distributed by: First Run Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Diedre Allen Timmons

Producer: Jack Timmons, Diedre Allen Timmons

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