A Wink and a Smile
Directed by: Deirdre Allen Timmons
Cast: Miss Indigo Blue
Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Release date: May 8, 2009
Plot: A documentary following Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque’s students. The film intersperses the student’s stories with performances by professional burlesque dancers in Seattle and commentary by Blue.
Who’s It For? If you’re into burlesque you’ll probably appreciate learning more. If not, it’s definitely interesting anyway. Iif you like boobs, you’ll love it.
Expectations: I didn’t get burlesque, it just seemed like stripping with fancy costumes. So I wasn’t really excited about this film.
Miss Indigo Blue as herself: Blue is a performer, which can be good or bad in a documentary. I’m going with bad for this one. She’s clearly a good teacher, the scenes with her in the classroom are great. But she rubbed me the wrong way when giving commentary during the burlesque performances in the film. She keeps talking about the meaning and subtext, she sounds like a lecturer in a sexology class. I wanted to understand why women and men decide to become burlesque performers, not be hit over the head with the depth of their strip shows. Though that’s not just her fault, it was the filmmaker’s choice as well.
The Students as themselves: Ten brave women not only registered for Blue’s class, but agreed to reveal themselves emotionally and physically for this film. They’re each given about an equal length of time in the film, but despite that, some make a stronger impression than others. Tami is a taxidermist with an enormous tattoo across her chest. She seems totally confident, but as the process wears on she, and the other women, reveal their nervousness. From worrying about losing costume pieces too early to the idea of family friends seeing them in the audience, each student has plenty to fear. But they’re incredibly open with the cameras and through them I understood why burlesque appeals to wannabe performers.
Talking: Though unscripted, everyone is well spoken. No narration, though Blue does talk over the professional burlesque performances, to share her thoughts.
Sights: Most of it was shot very well, especially the performance scenes. What I didn’t care for were the arty slow motion shots that worked as transitions. The filmmakers had so much good stuff, but the arty swooshes just annoyed me.
Sounds: There’s a lot of interesting music in the film, mainly in the performance pieces. It’s not necessarily stuff I’d listen to at home, but it works really well within the context of the film. You can’t really give the filmmakers credit though, because the music was chosen by the individual burlesque performers.
Best Scene: I loved seeing the final “graduation” performance by the Burlesque Academy students. After watching them prepare, I totally wanted to see what they’d do. Unfortunately, the filmmakers only showed snippets of the final performances, as a montage. I wanted to see full performances, or at least clips of parts with the actual music. So the best scene was also kind of a let down.
Ending: The recital is the natural place to conclude the film, so I was pleased with that.
Questions: Why didn’t they show the full group performance from the students? Why did Blue need to comment over the burlesque performances? Is it just me or is anyone else reminded of a less fun version of Flashdance?
Rewatchability: In bits and pieces. I’d prefer to see individual routines rather than the whole film. Though I’d totally show it to other people interested in burlesque, it would work as a good primer.
I enjoyed A Wink and a Smile far more than I expected to. I’ve never gotten why burlesque is popular among people not sexually attracted to the stripper. I didn’t really get why women would want to do it ,either. And initially, I didn’t think this film would change my mind. Talk about the Burlesque “scene” and performances being analyzed for their socio-political content rubbed me the wrong way. It was the women in Blue’s burlesque class who changed my mind. They each had different reasons for wanting to join, but in general, they all thought it would be fun. Though they were scared, they all went through with it. And I was so proud of them! Everyone was smiling and so excited to be performing and sharing her body, I finally got why some people want do burlesque.
If that had been the whole movie, I would have loved it. But again, other bits dragged me down. Still, it’s worth seeing, especially if you have a screening in your town featuring some of the dancers from the film. They’re on tour, so be on the lookout!
Final Score: 6/10