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Reviews for April 23rd, 2010

Behind the Burly Q

Directed by Leslie Zemeckis.

This illuminating documentary focuses on the rise of burlesque in America during its golden age in the early 20th Century. The art of burlesque travelled from Britain to America where it evolved from comedic plays to a show with barely naked women who danced as merely a form of entertainment for the audience. Striptease eventually became incorporated as part of their act, but anyone fully aware and knowledgeable of burlesque would be able to know that burlesque was much more than merely a bunch of strippers performing live. Burlesque shows featured dancers, singers, comedians and even acrobats, so it wasn’t all about showing skin. Back then, the art of burlesque was so risqué that the mayor of New York in 1937 went to the extent of closing down burlesque venues. To this very day, the burlesque is a misunderstood and underappreciated part of history that the public deserves to be enlightened and aware about, Director Leslie Zemeckis wisely includes a wide variety of interviews with the burlesque strippers themselves such as Beverly Anderson Traube, Tempest Storm, Blaze Star, Dixie Evans, Sherry Britton, Kitty West, Betty Rowland and more. Each of them reminisces about their experiences during the golden age of burlesque which helps to shed light on what it was truly like to be an entertainer over 70 years ago. They openly and bravely discuss their long-buried feelings and thoughts about burlesque which, in a way, makes the film seem like a collection of diaries, memories and glimpses of such an underrated art form. In an amusing anecdote, actor Alan Alda recalls what it was like to be around his father, Robert Alda, a “tit singer” who sang while burlesque strippers performed. Will audiences who never experienced burlesque be able to fully grasp what burlesque was like? Perhaps not as fully as those who did get to experience watching it , but at least, given all of the insightful interviews combined with the brief archival footage, Behind the Burly Q is the closest that you can get to that particular, one-of-a-kind experience. At a running time of 1 hour and 38 minutes, Behind the Burly Q manages to be a captivating, illuminating and delightfully amusing celebration of a long-lost and misunderstood art form.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by First Run Features.
Opens at the Quad Cinema.

Boogie Woogie

Directed by Duncan Ward.

Art Spindle (Danny Huston), a powerful London-based art dealer, desperately wants to purchase the precious painting entitled Boogie Woogie from its elderly owners, Alfred (Christopher Lee) and Alfreda Lumley (Joanna Lumley). Another art dealer, Bob Maccelstone (Stellan Skarsgård) also wants the coveted painting. Bob happens to be cheating on his wife Jean (Gillian Anderson) with the manager of Art’s plush gallery, Beth (Heather Graham), who wants to open her very own art gallery with the help of Art. Further thickening the subplots, Jean has an affair with Beth’s boyfriend, Joe (Jack Huston), who’s also an artist. Even the Lumley’s secretary, Robert (Simon McBurney), has his own artwork. Rounding out the cast, there’s Elaine (Jaime Winstone), a video artist, and her emotionally unstable manager, Dewey (Alan Cumming) and, finally, Amanda Seyfriend as a sexy roller-skating young woman who starts working at Art’s gallery. Blink and you might miss the very brief appearance of the scene-stealing Charlotte Rampling. Writer/director Duncan Ward has woven a potpourri of interconnected stories with characters that suffer in different ways from the coldness and backstabbings that take place in the art world. Occasionally, the film does tend to meander and feel overstuffed as it gyrates back and forth from one subplot to another, but, as it progresses, attentive audience members will be able to sense recurring themes and to realize that they’re essentially getting a glimpse of the harsh, ugly realities of the art industry, especially for young, aspiring artists. Each of the characters could easily be explored more fully as the protagonist in a separate film. Danny Huston delivers a convincingly smarmy as the unlikable Art, but the truly raw and radiant performance here belongs to Gillian Anderson who looks sexier and more seductive than ever than she’s ever been before. One particularly interesting scene takes place during an art gallery opening when the parents of one of the women shown in a projected video claims that what their watching is pornography while their daughter claims that it’s art. Is it art because she says it is or does she say it’s art because it’s true? Joe’s cleverly designed works of art, which won’t be spoiled here, touch upon the concept of perspective which, when changed, changes the way the viewer sees his artwork. The same can be said for Boogie Woogie because, at first glance, it seems like a mere amalgamation of convoluted, chaotic snippets of lives from the art world, but the more you focus and absorb everything, including the peripheral characters, you suddenly see everything from a different perspective because it suddenly forms into somewhat of a cohesive whole with a purpose---after all, according to the Chaos Theory, order and structure can be found even within chaos. At a running time of 1 hour and 34 minutes, Boogie Woogie is overstuffed and occasionally meandering while boasting a terrific ensemble cast and a radiant, brave performance by Gillian Anderson. It’s an unflinchingly honest, provocative potpourri of the harsh realities of the art world.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at the IFC Center.

Breath Made Visible

Directed by Ruedi Gerber.

This captivating documentary focuses on the life and work of Anna Halprin, one of the most important pioneers of modern dance who blended dancing with the connection between mind, body and one’s surrounding environment. According to Halprin, 86 at the time of filming, the art of dance is more than just a part of life or a means of expression; it actually is life because it’s the breath made visible. As she wisely explains, as long as you’re breathing, you’re moving your body, which, fundamentally, is a form of dance. Interestingly, she says that she had studied anatomy and physiology as a means to get a better understanding about how the human body works and moves. Dance also represents for her a special way to cope with and to overcome the emotional pains and struggles of life. She even teaches dance to the elderly, to cancer patients and AIDS patients to help them to embrace their emotions and to lead them on the path toward healing inspired by her own battles with cancer which she ended up surviving. Director Ruedi Gerber includes some footage of Halprin’s performances along with many fascinating interviews with Halprin during which she not only discusses how she initiated into the world of dance at the age of 5, but also how she interprets the art of dance in such a spiritual and profound way. She comes across as very bright, articulate, honest, and charismatic. Above all, she has a sense of humor and joie de vivre that signifies to any perceptive viewer that she has found her niche and contentment in life which she shares with others wholeheartedly through her inspirational teaching. Interviews with choreographer Merce Cunningham and Halprin’s beloved husband, Lawrence, who works as a landscape architect, shed further light on Halprin and how she was, is and will continue to be a testament to the hope of embracing and living life to the fullest while overcoming its hardships through the organic healing power of dance. At a running time of 1 hour and 20 minutes, Breath Made Visible manages to be a fascinating, heartwarming and delightful inspiration for your mind, body and soul.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Argot Pictures.
Opens at the Cinema Village.

The Losers

Directed by Sylvain White.

Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) leads a team of mercenaries who find themselves double-crossed by the CIA during a black ops mission in the Bolivian Jungle. A sexy operative, Aisha (Zoe Saldana), helps him along with the other members of his team, Jensen (Chris Evans), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short), and Cougar (Óscar Jaenada), to cross the border back into the United States safely because the CIA assumes that they all have died in a crash during the black ops mission. They set out to retaliate against Max (Jason Patrick) the CIA agent who double-crossed them. Max has a diabolical plan to purchase nuclear weapons from terrorists which would wreak havoc all over the world. Anyone who expects character development or a sense of realism should look elsewhere. Every scene from the get-go is silly and highly preposterous, but a lot of fun. Director Sylvain White includes very stylish. Invigorating cinematography and fast-paced editing along with lots of thrilling chases, explosions and violence which should please audience members who aren’t looking for anything more than some mindless action and a totally inane plot with equally dumb characters. The Losers the kind of action comedy that doesn’t have an identity crisis like most films nowadays (i.e. The Bounty Hunter, among others) because it’s consistently, undeniably silly and proud of its stupidity every single step of the way from start to finish. Had there been a romantic subplot involved, it would be distracting and take away from the film’s momentum. Jason Patrick provides the most laughs with his campy, over-the-top portrayal of a cartoonish villain. Óscar Jaenada, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Chris Evans have some laugh-out-loud scenes as well., The Losers is consistently preposterous, action-packed, delightfully campy, and wildly entertaining as long as you don’t mind checking your brain at the door for 98 minutes. /center>
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

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