'A Wink and a Smile'

Highly entertaining doc provides an eye-opening lesson in the theory and practice of stripping.

Highly entertaining docu “A Wink and a Smile” provides an eye-opening lesson in the theory and practice of stripping — as taught by fan dancer extraordinaire Miss Indigo Blue, headmistress of Seattle’s Academy of Burlesque, and illustrated onstage by the city’s foremost ecdysiasts, from Inga Ingenue to Ernie von Schmaltz. Alternating between 10 students’ behind-the-scenes preparations and a wide range of polished professional acts, complete with critical commentary, helmer Deirdre Allen Timmons never loses sight of burlesque’s fundamental playfulness, despite oft-repeated claims of feminine empowerment. “Wink,” which opens May 1 at Gotham’s Quad Cinema, is an old-fashioned postmodern hoot.

The students interviewed — who include a tattooed taxidermist, an opera singer and a self-confessed virgin — praise burlesque’s inclusiveness and validation of all body types. Aspiring strippers see their six-week course as a way to overcome everything from bulimia to complacency. Meanwhile, onstage, performance artists of all stripes strut their stuff: Indigo’s assistant/fellow artiste, the Shanghai Pearl, flaunts her Asian otherness, period-perfect Vienna Le Rouge elegantly twirls a parasol while coyly unlacing her corset and male (“boylesque”) performer Waxie Moon, in handlebar mustache and full bridal regalia, shyly undresses for his wedding night.

A Wink and a Smile

Production

A First Run Features release of a Golden Echo Films production. Produced by Jack Timmons, Deirdre Allen Timmons. Directed by Deirdre Allen Timmons.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Peter Waweru, Marie Joelle Rizk; editors, Deirdre Allen Timmons, Peter Waweru. Reviewed on DVD, New York, April 24, 2009. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Miss Indigo Blue, the Shanghai Pearl, Tamara the Trapeze Lady, the Swedish Housewife, Waxie Moon, Vienna le Rouge, Lily Verlaine, Kitten la Ru, Inga Ingenue, Ernie von Schmaltz, Ultra.
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