So what explains the magical pairing of painting and pondering? Believe it or not, a scene from Burlesque, the much-maligned Cher/Christina Aguilera vehicle, might contain the answer. As Cher’s character gently applies eye-liner and lip stain to Aguilera’s dewy skin, she ruminates on how putting on one’s makeup is a lot like painting—she who holds the brush is the artist, and the artist, at least within the confines of her medium (be it canvas or face), controls the universe.
It’s not a coincidence that many of the films in this list are also members of the camp canon: The notion that artifice (as embodied, for example, in drag) may be the way to truth rather than an escape from it is a key tenet of the aesthete’s philosophy. But such scenes also serve a slightly subversive purpose, providing otherwise objectified women, in the fluid moment before they’re “finished” and consumable, a chance to comment on themselves and their situation. When the contrivance of beauty is fully on display, other seemingly solid assumptions may start to shimmer and run, too.