This is one of the most frustrating and infuriating viewing experiences I've had in years, and a real blown opportunity to do a comprehensive job telling the story of these burlesque queens. The problem is that Liz Goldwyn inserts herself into the story, and takes it over with her misguided attempts to do striptease, something that she has neither the looks nor the body for.
I mean, if you want to strip, it helps if you have actual curves. This woman needed to go on the all-ButterBurger diet for a month. But it's not her anorexic frame that's the problem here. It's her ego-tripping, wrongheaded approach to the subject that torpedoes this project. Despite having one of the Maysles as her cinematographer, she violates all the rules of documentary film-making, and misses the point time and again.
The interviews are great, and funny in spite of the filmmaker, who keeps trying to insert her third wave feminist rhetoric into their life stories. Whereas the strippers themselves are very matter-of-fact about their careers, Goldwyn keeps trying to tell them how they "owned their sexuality." When the women tell her about the raincoat crowd masturbating under newspapers while the dancers did their bump-and-grind, her reaction is priceless: "How dare they!," she says, adding, "That's not what it was about...It was about witticism...Empowerment." No, it was about women taking their clothes off and guys wanking to it. As one of the strippers says, "We were the poor man's brothel." If Goldwyn has a problem with guys beating off to strippers, she needn't worry that anyone will be masturbating to the striptease number she performs at the end of the film.
Zorita, a stripper who often used a snake in her act, has a lot of the best lines. Goldwyn keeps asking Zorita about her lesbianism. When she asks what use Zorita had for men, the response is classic: "A hairy chest and a limp joint. Who needs it?" At another point, when teaching the fan dance to the clueless filmmaker, Zorita tells her, "You're queer for asses." Anyway, there's some worthwhile stuff to be found here, but there could have been so much more if not for the overprivileged and undertalented Goldwyn and her lame, Women's Studies take on classic striptease.
Oh yeah -- she also loses points for using David Bowie's "Oh! You Pretty Things" as the theme song, instead of the Bo Diddley song.
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