23rd Feb2014

Exposed: Beyond Burlesque – DVD

by timbaros
images-108Exposed: Beyond Burlesque takes us into the wild and wonderful world and lives of several burlesque performers. It’s an in your face, genitals and all movie. Directed by Beth B, we are taken into another world, to an underground scene that seems to exist as a fantasy to most of us but a reality for the performers.

We are introduced (or more fittingly exposed) to 8 female and male burlesque artists. They are not shy about being naked onstage, for them it is a personal freedom, and a job that they all enjoy doing.
We meet, in no particular order:
-Rose Wood, a New York City Transgender performance artist acclaimed for his brutally frank commentary on social mores and hypersexuality, and for his exhibitionistic performance. He’s actually a man, but during the course of the movie, he gets breast implants, and he bravely walks the streets of New York City with his new body. He says “I try to present the audience with another way of seeing the body”. Wood is a featured performer at The Box in NYC, where he sometimes performs as a rabbi. He is far from mainstream.
-World Famous *BOB* (yes, that is her actual stage name), a voluptuous blonde bombshell whose large boobs are the main feature of her performances. She even uses them to mix martinis! She left home at the age of 16 when she realized she was a gay man (!!) in a woman’s body, and was eventually taken in by a group of drag queens, hence her drag queen-like appearance. She is all woman. She categorises herself as a woman who acts like a man who dresses in drag.
– Bunny Love. She uses theatre, dance, music, film, lots and lots of makeup, and southern belle costumes to explore contemporary issues in her shows. She has performed in mostly all of the burlesque venues in NYC, and they keep asking her to come back. She says in the film “My family is a bit in the dark as to what exactly I do.” We see her on stage, totally naked, putting lipstick on her lips and on her vagina, wrapping herself up in black tape.
– Tiger! James Tiger! Ferguson is a Stripperformance artist. He is also an actor and dancer, and most of all a stripper. He won the first King of Boylesque title at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2006. He is a boy in a man’s body.
– Dirty Martini. Perhaps one of the world’s most well-known burlesque artists, she specializes in performing as a 1940’s and 1950’s legend of burlesque entertainer. She says ” I was struggling a lot with this issues of acceptance so I needed a way to express myself so people could see me as a dancer for the unique properties that my body has.” And her body DOES have unique properties. Martini (not her real name) has appeared on television talk shows all over Europe, including our own Paul O’Grady show.
– Bambi the Mermaid. She is a conceptual visual and performance artist, with a cute smile to match. Her performances involve lots of disturbing images that she hopes will be controversial, as well as dressing up as a lobster. Bambi produces Coney Island’s famed Burlesque at the Beach, New York’s oldest and longest running burlesque show, which is heavily featured in Exposed.
– Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz. Burlesque’s first couple. Mat and Julie actually got married in 2012 and are perhaps considered Burlesque royalty. Fraser is the UK’s best-known disabled performer who participated in the Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies. He says in the film that “he’s always been a rebel” and Fraser’s tried to be as normal as possible, despite being bullied in school (for his short arms). He has discovered the joy to make people laugh, and he’s adamament that he’s not a separatist. Muz, who is from Detroit, Michigan is a conceptual performer and choreographer. She is a girlie girl, not shy to shock audiences, either with performances that include lots of blood, being totally naked onstage, or dressed in outlandish costumes. And she says that “being naked for me is a pleasure. It’s like an amor, its the best costume.”
These are the performers who are featured in Exposed. But the film’s best scene are the ones between Fraser and Muz. They appear to be made for each other. They are both in the same kind of work, and they both love what they do, and in Exposed, we see them both on stage together, using various body parts as part of their show, whether it be Mat’s penis or Muz’s vagina, anything seems to go for them. And we see them in bed with each  other, discussing how and when they met ( in 2006), and how they were smitten with each other, and how much they are in love. It’s actually quite touching. It’s a real true romance in an otherwise unreal world.
Director Beth B. (no last name) has expertly captured some of the American and British Burlesque scenes, interspersing footage from burlesque performers of the 1950’s.
Burlesque shows at venues such at New York City’s The Slipper Room, the alternative performance space called Dixon Place, Performance Space 122, and Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, and most memorably the shows that take place in world famous Coney Island are in the film. Also featured are performances at the Fringe Festival in Amsterdam which area quite sexual and raw. These performances are expertly woven into the film in between the performers speaking about their lives and how they got into burlesque.

“It’s an immediate and honest and sometimes brutal art form”, says Mat Fraser. That would sum up Burlesque – and Exposed.

23rd Feb2014

Seduced & Abandoned – DVD

by timbaros


Seduced & Abandoned is not your typical documentary. It is a documentary about a film that will or will not be made. Ultimately, is this film a real film? Or was it made up just to make this documentary?

Written and Directed by James Toback (whose done very little since his 2008 Mike Tyson documentary), Seduced & Abandoned has him and Alec Baldwin trying to get financing for a movie they are looking to make. They attempt to sell their film, provisionally titled Last Tango in Tikrit (inspired by Last Tango in Paris) as a political-erotic romantic Middle Eastern adventure film, and to star Baldwin, and Neve Campbell. Filmed over 10 days at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, Seduced & Abandoned shows Toback and Baldwin as they pitch the idea of their film, meeting all of the movers and shakers in the film business, the creme de la creme, including actors, producers, directors, agents and most importantly, financiers.
Seduced & Abandoned starts off with a brief history of the festival, along with photos of red carpet events held there over the past 65 years. Then Baldwin and Toback begin their pitch. They seek advice from esteemed and Cannes veteran directors Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Francis Coppola and Bernardo Bertolucci (coupled with clips of their films montaged with the interviews). Then Toback and Baldwin start their mission of trying to get money from anyone who wants to give it to them. They pitch their idea of their film to very very wealthy people, people who can easily afford to write them a check for $20 million. People such as Denise Rich (who tells them she only invests in things that she believes in), Taki Theodoracopulos (where they are seen lunching on his yatch), Jean Pigozzi (who doesn’t commit to anything), and, among others, Arpad Busson, who doesn’t have a lot to say to both men. Also, none are too keen with the choice of Campbell as a leading lady. They also speak to actresses Jessica Chastain and Diane Kruger, asking them if they would like to be in their film. Neither of them are convinced. Ryan Gosling joins them for an interview – with him musing about how he got his break in Hollywood and what it takes to be an actor in the film business. All of these interviews are split-screened with scenes from each of their films. And Cannes is captured as the madcap film festival where deals are done, stars are made, and the red carpet is the place to be seen.
But is Seduced & Abandoned a joke about the film business? Or is it a joke about the making of a non-realistic film? What it is about is what film critic Pauline Kael once said – ‘true moviemaking fever’. People are seduced by the premise of making a film, the glamour, the profile, the seduction of the film business. Yet most of the time people are left abandoned, the film never gets made. In this case, it is more of a question of what were Baldwin and Toback trying to get out of this? Surely, their film was actually never going to be made. So what we have here is a movie about them making a movie that is in turn about making movies. Yet, whose time has been wasted: The financiers they spoke to, very busy and influential men who can make deals happen with the stroke of a pen? Or our time, watching a documentary about a film that will never be made. You decide. Seduced & Abandoned is now out on DVD.