All is revealed in Bettie Page documentary

  • Article by: MICK LASALLE , San Francisco Chronicle
  • Updated: December 5, 2013 - 3:40 PM
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Bettie Page, a 1950s secretary-turned-model whose controverisal photographs in skimpy attire or none at all made her a pivotal figure in American culture, is the subject of a new documentary.

BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL

“Bettie Page Reveals All” (⋆⋆ out of four stars, rated R) is a documentary about the 1950s pinup model, about her career before, during and after the period in which she posed for photos, clothed and naked, and appeared in short films. The documentary tells the story of Page’s life and gives us an idea of her personality, and it succeeds completely within that small but worthy sphere. Only when it makes the claim for Page as a pivotal figure in American culture does it overstate the case and become tiresome. Page did have quite a story. She had a childhood of poverty and sexual abuse, but retained an independent spirit and a radiant sense of self for most of her youth, before having a complete mental breakdown in her 50s. Everyone remembers Page as intelligent, and she was her high school’s salutatorian. Page died at age 85 in 2008, but it’s her voice that narrates most of the film, and director Mark Mori is inventive in finding a steady stream of images to go with the words. He mostly uses stills and moving pictures of Bettie from her 1950s heyday. The older Bettie never appears on screen. There are cringe-inducing moments, as when one talking head tells us that it was Bettie’s acting that made her sleazy bondage films better than other people’s. Actually, they still look pretty bad, as well as creepy and demeaning, and her acting is embarrassing. However, this was some kind of American life, the story of a girl who did the best she could, and her photos apparently still speak to some people. That’s interesting enough. (Mall of America)

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