REVIEW: The Beauty Strip [2014]

Score: 4/10 | ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 58 minutes | Release Date: January 1st, 2014 (USA)
Studio: Marshmallow Press Productions
Director(s): Ginnetta Correli
Writer(s): Ginnetta Correli

“I think individuality is a very complex thing”

There’s no better description for Marshmallow Press Productions than “cinema for the obscure viewer”—at least where their newest on-demand offering The Beauty Strip is concerned. Is its sixty-minutes a series of erotica music videos for electronica bands like Zigo Rayonpineal, Occurrences in Rain, Names, and Bob Orum? Maybe an art piece by writer/director/cinematographer Ginnetta Correli depicting staged documentations of women in multiple states of undress? Both? More? Alternatingly pulse pounding with Skrillex-esque dubstep and calmly serene with smooth atmospheric noise, we visit ten or so performers in regimented vignettes to discover the logline’s promise of “individual erotic perception”. I’m not sure how true that statement is considering Correli appears to dictate her wants above the subjects’, but maybe she’s merely presenting a smorgasbord of flesh to stimulate audience arousal and ensure their individual desire is sparked.

While the film is primed to be separated by dancer and projected on multiple walls of a gallery space as a display of erotic motifs, sexuality, and the uninhibited female form, it can be rather daunting and difficult as a movie for home viewer consumption. Correli seems more intent on abstraction and the formal visual aesthetic of the body as its gyrations are cut to the often-jarring music at its back than to tell any kind of story about these women. A couple models (Twenty Stars and Sage Bell) are allowed to talk about why they do what they do, flaunting their youth while they have it, and the contrast of a great body as compared to being “sexy”, but its so rare that you wonder why the whole piece wasn’t simply kept devoid of dialogue.

Personally I wished there was more of this to truly get inside the heads of these ladies and understand their motives and want for attention rather than watch them perform for Correli’s camera. Just look at Mari Kris being asked to play with a cigarette and blow smoke when she very much would rather not. It’s awkward listening to her be out of her element and not knowing what it is she’s being asked to do, turning any hope of desire for pouty lips as she swirls the cig in a martini glass to sympathy for her obvious discomfort. On-the-other-hand, plus-size dancer Luci Lux doing her glamour shot thing and Francesca’s skeletal frame moving nakedly about a hotel room bed while taping her mouth shut come across as confident and natural in comparison.

There is a push and pull between this authenticity of tone and Correli’s obvious direction throughout that makes you ask whose perception we’re truly witnessing. Hearing Twenty Stars talk about her work towards the end of the film (she is the only subject allowed two separate chapters) is informative in her candor and description of modeling politics’ way of dismissing girls in their thirties on the page despite probably not being able to tell they aren’t twenty in person. She is given three-dimensionality to pique our interest on top of her perpetually naked body riding rocking horses while peach juice flows down from her mouth—something Barbie is denied considering her only screentime is engaged in a lap dance with Cosmo the hookah smoker of which we’re shown in blatant artifice on behalf of the filmmaker.

Maybe Barbie didn’t want to put more of her “real” self on film than that. Maybe I’m being too hard on Correli because she had no choice but to give some girls the spotlight while letting others simply dance to the music, detached and anonymous. Maybe this reaction is exactly what she means by individual perception—how I cannot see the staginess as erotic because the performer’s autonomy has been removed. Another audience member will have the exact opposite reaction and others will fall in between. Maybe The Beauty Strip is more a document on variety, uniqueness, and our preconceptions that some are better than others. Whether Lux, Ms. Bliss, Twenty Stars, or Mari Kris, however, we can agree they each love what they see in the mirror and aren’t afraid to share it.

And neither is Correli who I believe is heard multiple times from behind the camera like a fashion photographer cheering her models on and enjoying every minute alongside them. She films them in wigs, with props, and inside differing locales spanning kitchens, bedrooms, and public arenas with an artistic eye and fearless editing style to match the mood of the sounds blaring. Some prove memorable in their eccentricity (Twenty Stars pulling her head out of a stocking); their wholesome looks (Sage Bell’s girl next door pigtails); or a singular shot of beauty (Ms. Bliss caught exhaling an opaque plume of smoke is striking). All—whether crawling on the floor or flickering within an artsy Wonder Bread “commercial”—are simply doing their thing unapologetically. I’m not sure the vehicle itself, however, is a successful “movie” in its current form.

[1] Twenty Stars
[2] Barbie by G. Correli

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