Three strippers perform and muse about their chosen profession in “The Unveiling.” Despite subject’s inherent curiosity value, as well as interviewees’ ingratiating personalities, short running time and lack of polish consign this effort to limited fest exposure.
Pic intercuts among its principals at work and at leisure in the L.A. area. Michele is a petite African-American single mom who does an athletic pole-climbing act; Eldad is a well-buffed aspiring Latino actor and very good dancer. Erstwhile “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque” Dixie Evans, now 70-ish, runs “Exotic World” — a strip-memorabilia museum on a ranch outside San Diego — where “stripper conventions” and how-to seminars are regularly held. A couple of other performers (notably a busty blond fire-eater) get briefer screen time.
Evans, who might easily ballast a documentary by herself, provides plainspoken comment on the craft’s burlesque-house roots and subsequent (depressing, in her estimation) tidal shift from gotta-have-a-gimmick inventiveness to today’s largely mystique-free bump-and-lap-grinding. One highlight is seeing a (presumably 1950s) B&W reel of her old act, which sassily mimes a would-be-starlet’s clothes-shedding “audition” for a Hollywood producer.
Otherwise, archival footage is glimpsed just fleetingly. Both Eldad and Michele identify themselves as bisexual, and seem to perform largely for same-sex audiences. There is thus a lack of insight into stripping’s primary market — heterosexual males, at clubs or private bachelor parties. Protags’ remarks about customers who assume they also provide sexual services, or simply get too drunken-frisky, are frank, if seldom surprising.
Sound recording is variable, which doesn’t help toward understanding the heavily accented Eldad. Lensing is OK by verite standards, but editing leans heavily toward short, blackout-separated scenes that convey little grasp of overall structure or pacing. Director Rodney Evans includes some split-screen sequences as one diverting, if gratuitous, stylistic fillip. Nudity is copious, albeit never full-frontal.