WELCOME SINNERS! THE VELVET HAMMER STORY

4 Stars
Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 59 minutes
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In this charming and poignant documentary, filmmakers follow the girls responsible for single-handedly reviving the age-old art of burlesque performance in the show, “The Velvet Hammer.” Creator of the show Michelle Carr and her fascinating group of girlfriends/performers are followed from the early research stages, where they study cute clips and film loops of burlesque shows of yore, visit the retired “den mother of burlesque” Dixie Evans in her burlesque museum, “Exotic World,” and come up with crazy ideas for costumes for their show months away. In the meantime, we see how painstakingly they overcome obstacles to ultimately put on a magnificent show dedicated to preserving the history of burlesque. We cheer when one of their own wins the “Miss Exotic World” beauty pageant hosted by Evans and attended by a community of retirees, we are amazed at the performer who owns 350 Barbie dolls, including “Anal Bead Barbie,” we admire the old-school seamstress smoking 100s who quizzically tries to figure out how to help a girl who has sewn herself into a costume, and we cheer for the spunky dancer who argues with the annoying emcee during a rehearsal. Each girl in the show is lauded for her individuality, from her body type to the nature of her performance onstage. The girls come in all shapes and sizes, from all backgrounds, yet every one of them sees the value and merit in a brief era of history. No one can say the girls aren’t interesting. They are ladies who exist in their own worlds and their own reconstructed interpretations of the past; deliberately going against the norm for an art form they believe in. Through the rehearsals, the arguments, the triumphs, the setbacks, one can only admire the dedication and wherewithal the performers have while throwing themselves into a labor of love. The film, shot mostly on video, is not technically the best piece of filmmaking. But, as a documentary, the pace is surprisingly fast and a strange kind of narrative ensues. We learn about the personal dramas and sacrifices the girls endure in order to band together for one night of strutting their stuff. The film has a sad kind of tenderness about it, like you just want to take one of the heavily tattooed Betty Page-inspired women and tell them everything will be okay. But ultimately, their hard work and creativity pays off with the culmination of the show, and at once you realize how strong these girls really are. “Welcome Sinners!”is a recommendation for all those who are interested in the creative process, in burlesque, and of course, for all of those who never get tired of seeing a girl in tassels shimmy.



Posted on May 8, 2003 in Reviews by
Buffer


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