Aging is a natural, if difficult, part of life, but when you’ve made your career off of youthful good looks and sexuality, it becomes a lot more complex. The new documentary Bellas de Noche (Beauties of the Night) takes a look at what this process means for a handful of showgirls who made their mark in Mexico’s swinging burlesque scene of the 1970s and 80s – embodied in the notorious exploitation film genre Cine de Ficheras.
Directed by first-time helmer María José Cuevas, who has already made a name for herself as an experimental video artist, Bellas de Noche features interviews with some of that era’s most recognizable names, including Olga Breeskin, Lyn May, and Rossy Mendoza. Over 90 minutes, these women reflect on the joy and heartache of their golden age, while ruminating on the significance of beauty and aging.
Incorporating footage from classic ficheras films, Cuevas followed these fading vedettes over the course of eight years, capturing vignettes from their daily lives with a stunning eye for composition and imagery loaded with playful irony. But while her subjects may seem a little eccentric, Cuevas clearly approaches them with a sense of respect and reverence, allowing them to perform for her camera while also plumbing into some of their deeper existential anxieties.
Bellas de Noche had its world premiere as part of the TIFF Docs program at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.