EXPOSED (Beth B, 2013)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Monday, March 3, 7:00
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
Theatrical release March 13-20, IFC Center
In Exposed, visual artist Beth B, who got her start in the 1970s underground scene in New York City, invites viewers into the inner world of burlesque, going behind the scenes with eight current performers who share intimate details about their lives and their shows. Beth B (Two Small Bodies, An Unlikely Terrorist), who wrote, directed, produced, edited (with Keith Reamer), and photographed (with Dan Karlok) the seventy-six-minute documentary, goes backstage at such New York venues as the Slipper Room, Le Poisson Rouge, the Cutting Room, Dixon Place, P.S. 122, Galapagos Art Space, and Coney Island’s Sideshows by the Seashore as burlesque performers discuss issues of gender, control, freedom, disabilities, power, nudity, femininity, personal and professional identity, and more. “What the world projects as normal, it’s just such an illusion, it’s such a fantasy,” Bunny Love says, “and I love that fantasy.” UK comedian and cabaret performer Mat Fraser, who was born with “flippers” for hands, explains, “If you can make them laugh and make a political point that fuels your outrage, all the better.” And Rose Wood adds, “I’ve tried to present my audience with an indelible picture of the body seen in another way, seen in a way that’s different than they see themselves. They have ideas of what’s normal — what a man does, what a woman does, what a heterosexual does, what a gay person does — and I try to present them with another way of seeing the body.” Among the other performers who share their stories are Tigger!, who uses burlesque as a kind of sexual political theater; Dirty Martini, who pays tribute to such early stars of the wordless art form as Dixie Evans and Vickie Lynn; Bambi the Mermaid, who produces Coney Island’s popular Burlesque at the Beach series; Julie Atlas Muz, who honors Pina Bausch in her performance art; and World Famous *BOB*, who points out, “I never lie to people. People would say, ‘Are you a man or a woman?’ And I would say yes. That quick wit was something that I learned from my drag family, that quick wit, that ability to turn anything that hurts you inside into something that’s funny.”
But whereas previous documentaries about burlesque, like Leslie Zemeckis’s Behind the Burly Q, examine its history, Exposed delves into the very personal, individual stories that drive these performers’ desire to take the stage and reveal themselves. While some are clearly proud of who they are and what they do, others appear to still be working out deeply felt, raw and painful emotions and memories. The eight subjects hold nothing back in the film as they bare body and soul; many of the performances are extremely graphic, but it is often as freeing to watch the acts onstage as it appears to be for the performers to perform them. Exposed is screening at MoMA on March 3 at 7:00 as part of the Modern Mondays series, with live performances by Muz, Fraser, and Dirty Martini, followed by a Q&A with Beth B, composer Jim Coleman (who wrote several songs with Beth B), coproducer Sandra Schulberg, and the full cast. The film will then move to the IFC Center for its official U.S. theatrical release March 14-20, with each 9:30 nightly showing featuring a live performance by one or more of the subjects, in addition to a March 13 sneak peek with the complete cast and filmmakers and an after-party at Dixon Place.