(2000) dir. Vicky Funari, Julia Query
This documentary about the unionization of the Lusty Lady strip club in San Francisco interested me from the local angle. It’s a story that I had followed in the local media, and though I have never been inside the place (I have never been in a strip club ever, actually), I have heard a lot about it over the years. Actually, I had always heard that the Lusty Lady was supposed to be “lesbian-run” (which I think was meant to read potentially as “politically correct, of course”) and a place where a lot of girls would get their first strip jobs. It made it sound like a fairly decently-run establishment, and maybe compared to other strip clubs, it is. I was surprised about the working conditions that the film documented. It wasn’t like some Third World sweatshop, but it was hardly a strife-free workplace.
Another thing that I didn’t know about the film was the “personal”, “confessional” aspect of the film. Julia Query, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, is also a stripper at the club and resultantly film’s primary subject. She is a natural focal point being one of the main organizers of the union and one who has a mother who is a well-known nurse who works with other sex workers (prostitutes, in her mother’s case). Query is almost too close to the action (no pun intended) to have good editorial judgment about directing the film, perhaps.
Some moments that arise from the “personalization” of this story are interesting, such as when Query “comes out” to her mother about being a stripper (she is already out to her mother regarding her sexual orientation). There is an ironically exploitative side to this, which Query acknowledges on camera before filming her “coming out” to her mother and the resultant drama. Query is also a stand-up comedian, and she intercuts segments of her stand-up act about her work and story to comment on certain plot twists and developments. Maybe it is not inherently the personalization and autobiography of this that is the film’s weakness, but just in the execution.
Unfortunately, Query herself is not interesting enough to carry the film, though narcissistic enough to try. However, the film’s overall subject is pretty interesting. Perhaps someone with a keener mind for film-making could have eked more out of this material.