Film

'Bettie Page Reveals All' Is Touching, Not Exploitative

This is an excellent, engrossing amalgamation of the history of Bettie Page.


Bettie Page Reveals All

Director: Mark Mori
Cast: Bettie Page, Hugh Hefner, Dita Von Teese, Paula Klaw, Tempest Storm, Bunny Yeager, Irving Klaw, Greg Theakston
Length: 101 minutes
Studio: Music Box Films
Year: 2012
Distributor: Music Box
MPAA Rating: R
Release date: 2014-04-22

With a title like Bettie Page Reveals All, many viewers might expect a certain kind of sexed-up movie focusing on the most risqué aspects of the now-famous (and “Notorious”) pin-up star. And those viewers looking for “cheesecake” imagery wouldn’t be disappointed to a large degree in both the content of the feature documentary and the Blu-ray extras that it accompanies. However, this is not simply a sexualized remembrance of the starlet who rose so quickly as a model and then disappeared.

Bettie Page Reveals All is so titled because the voice of the older Page, who died in 2008, is looking back on her life in a series of audio interviews (which gives some credence to the concept that the film was “narrated by Bettie Page”, as the film claims). While the recordings of Page’s voice hardly constitute a literal “narration”, they do provide a legitimate guideline through Page’s life from her earliest years, through her career and the aftermath which remained mostly mysterious to even her most devoted fans for a very long time.

The reason for this is, in part, because Page had no idea that there were any sort of fans of hers remaining anywhere in the world, having believed she was merely a flash in the modeling pan who was quickly dismissed. Meanwhile, a cottage industry had developed around the pin-up girl with merchandise and imitators to this day.

Page reveals, in her own voice, her incredible amazement that anyone even remembered that she existed, much less warranted a segment on Entertainment Tonight decades after her last photo shoot). This part of her story would have made a deeply interesting documentary on its own. But director Mark Mori and writer Doug Miller do not simply go for the peaks of Page’s life and career. Rather, they focus on the “All” of the title and reach back to the very beginning.

Old black and white photos of Page’s childhood and teen years are introduced by Page—by voice only, as she refused to be photographed in later life—as she tells the stories of her family, interests, early relationships and her first forays into modeling. Naturally, once the modeling years are explored, Mori has a plethora of visuals to deal with in the form of both still photos and videos, all of which look surprisingly clean and clear, even under the revealing eye of high definition Blu-ray.

More surprising is how innocently Page still approached every facet of her career, whether she was taking sweet “girl next door” photographs or making darker “bondage” videos. Page occasionally seems worldly and fully cognizant of the risqué nature of the modeling she did (which was, of course, much more risqué in the '50s than today). At other times Page seems to not understand the puritanical protest to the styles of modeling she found herself involved in with a sort of “What’s the big deal?” attitude.

Page’s is not the only revealing voice in Bettie Page Reveals All, during these early phases or beyond. Onscreen interviews with Dita Von Teese, Paula Klaw, Tempest Storm, Bunny Yeager, Greg Theakston and Hugh Hefner (Page was among Playboy Magazine’s first “Playmates of the Month”) all help to narrate the documentary through Page’s career’s ups, downs and missing years.

It's during these missing years that Page’s innocence and brightness disappears. While this era is hardly a real mystery anymore, hearing the pain in Page’s voice brings a pathos to the proceedings that separates this documentary from any sort of mere celebration of pin-up sexuality. To the credit of Miller and Mori, every part of this is treated with sensitivity and a very, well, documentary like tone without added sensationalism.

Still, Bettie Page Reveals All is much more of a tribute than an objective documentary—not that such a title promises objectivity. There are few opposing viewpoints to Page’s, though on the whole she is treated as an unassailable omniscient narrator throughout the film. This doesn’t become much of a problem for the viewer, however, because Page always comes off as the sweet woman fans imagine her to be. The interviews that supply the narration were never intended to really be narration. While they are often perfect fits to the screen story, other times they feel more like DVD commentary than direct accompaniment.

Extras include bonus footage, still galleries, coverage of Page’s funeral, archival and more current video (including a phone call between Paula Klaw and Page in their later years) and a music video. Most of the extras are worth the time to watch, although some do overstay their welcome and are included for the sake of completion only.

Overall, Bettie Page Reveals All is an excellent amalgamation of the history of Page and her incredible impact on modeling and fashion, mostly told in her own voice, to boot. The visuals are worthy of high definition and the story is much more often touching and engrossing than exploitative or merely “revealing”.

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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