Burlesque Undressed (R15)

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Review byMatthew Turner21/01/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 88 mins

Enjoyable documentary that's both informative and entertaining, though you can't help wishing it had concentrated more on some of the individual stories.

What's it all about?
Directed by Alison Grist and tellingly produced by Europe's reigning queen of burlesque, Immodesty Blaize, Burlesque Undressed explores the art of burlesque through an entertaining mixture of archive footage, interviews with burlesque stars past (Lily Anne Rose, Satan's Angel, April March, Joan Arline and Dixie Evans) and present (Immodesty Blaize, Kalani Kokonuts, Perle Noire, Catherine D'Lish, Dirty Martini, Michelle L'Amour and Kitten de Ville) and extensive footage of live performances from Blaize's Tease Show.

The Good
The various routines are extremely entertaining and Grist explores each aspect of the dance in great detail, tracing the history of burlesque from its early British roots and noting how it's developed over the years to include gimmicks such as huge props (Immodesty's rocking horse is particularly impressive), ostrich feather fans and various other essentials.

The interviews with the current stars (particularly Blaize, who's charming, likeable and oddly down to earth) are interesting enough but the highlight is undoubtedly the interviews with burlesque legends such as Joan Arline (still performing, age 76!), Dixie Evans (whose Marilyn act made her almost as famous as Marilyn herself in her day) and husky-voiced, flaming tassel-twirler Satan's Angel, who tells tales of dating Hollywood stars both male and female and relates a hilarious anecdote about why you should never attempt a burlesque act in freezing cold temperatures.

The Bad
Unfortunately, that backfires slightly, because the legends are so entertaining that you wish they'd been given a documentary to themselves; it's also frustrating that the film refuses to give any personal background on the performers, as they're genuinely fascinating. Similarly, the film is happy to state that burlesque appeals to both sexes (gay and straight) but fails to adequately explore or explain its current appeal.

Worth seeing?
Burlesque Undressed is an entertaining documentary that works well as a sort of Beginner's Guide to Burlesque, even if it does also occasionally feel like an ad for the (admittedly spectacular-looking) Tease Show. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 19/08/2019 00:59

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