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Originally published May 14, 2009 at 4:18 PM | Page modified May 14, 2009 at 4:20 PM

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Movie review

"A Wink and a Smile" is a revealing look at the art of burlesque

Ten Seattle women become burlesque artistes in the delightful documentary "A Wink and a Smile," by filmmaker Deirdre Allen Timmons. Review by Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

"A Wink and a Smile," a documentary directed by Deirdre Allen Timmons. 90 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

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In Deirdre Allen Timmons' lighthearted documentary "A Wink and a Smile," 10 Seattle women learn the art of burlesque. Their instructor, the very self-possessed Miss Indigo Blue, explains to a camera just what makes up a burlesque act: A performer enters the stage wearing some clothing, "magic happens," and the performer exits the stage wearing less clothing.

The film flickers between showing us the students' journey to burlesquehood, and documenting the more polished acts of a number of Seattle burlesque performers. Fans are waved (very elegantly, in the case of Miss Blue; it's as if they're the flower and she's the stem); tassels are twirled; elaborate garments are carefully removed; and there's a lot of talk about empowerment and creative expression, some of which gets a bit redundant. (There's an overlap, obviously, between burlesque and mere stripping; these performers are eager to establish that what they're doing is art.)

Elegantly shot — particularly the irresistible repeated motif, between segments, of a dancer in shadow, playing with a beam of light — and nicely paced, "A Wink and a Smile" is most appealing in its depiction of the growing camaraderie of the students. One mentions her bulimia; others mention body-image issues; others, such as a delightfully game 50-something mother, are simply looking for something new. Though one student drops out, citing concerns that her family will disapprove (the same student who, earlier in the film, discussed the intimidation factor of being the largest woman in the room), the rest make it to the stage for a graduation performance, bumping and twirling and grinning. They've made it to the burlesque finish line, and they look thrilled; beaming in the spotlight, with a wink and a smile.

Moira Macdonald:206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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