"An examination of how the nude female body is hypersexualized, under attack, and exploited on- and offscreen in Hollywood."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
There’s no greater gift - or mystery - in life than intimacy. That feeling of being close with another human being and identifying with them on a personal level, beyond words, is fittingly indescribable. While it’s rare to establish that connection with anyone else, it’s equally as rare to muster up that accompanying affection. Once again, that’s just in real life. For the last few decades, however, the film industry has made intimacy look effortless through its mostly male ideals of what it should look like. Those ideals are stripped down and challenged in the documentary Body Parts.
The film, directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, premiered at Tribeca’s Film Festival this past week and is an eye-opening exposé on the history of nudity and sex scenes in contemporary Hollywood. With testimonials from various victimized actresses, the film bares it all to echo the importance of the #MeToo movement as well as dignified due diligence.
The film begins by briefly exploring the history of sex in the media, and how it became somewhat normalized in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Academy Award-winner Jane Fonda, one of biggest sex symbols from that era, makes a really impactful appearance to briefly talk about her work in Barbarella. Through an anecdote the audience discovers that she was not told the whole truth about how much nudity would be in the final product. That gears the main conversation of the film towards the topic of consent.
While mostly consensual, there are numerous times where a sex scene or a brief bit of nudity, isn’t exactly what an actor wants. I emphasize the word “mostly” because, as the audience comes to find out, it’s fairly common for a director to deviate from the script and try to force some additional exploitation. For example, Rosanna Arquette shares a story about the time she was asked to take off her top moments before shooting a scene for the 1981 film S.O.B., something that she had never agreed to do before.
If you think that the industry has evolved in the four decades since, you’ll almost certainly be infuriated by another story shared by an actress who worked on a James Franco film a few years ago. She explains that one time he sent someone on the next flight home for refusing to take off her clothes.
The film flags a clear need for intimacy coordinators on films and television shows. As the name implies, their sole purpose is to act as a liaison between the actors and any unreasonable request. One of the most surprising lessons of the film is how HBO just recently became the first network to enforce a requirement for coordinators on every single one of its productions. By recent, I mean post Game of Thrones. Let that sink in.
Despite its serious message, there are quite a bit of light moments too. They tend to be the segments where intimacy coordinators appear to teach how certain scenes are filmed. There is no doubt that you will laugh when you find out what a “murkin” is, or how it is made. The film’s clever use of clips from relevant movies and televisions shows not only help to move the film along but entertain the audience with lighter segues and much-needed visual aids.
Although I enjoyed the documentary, I did think that it was missing one particular perspective. I understand that the film is all about female empowerment and how damaging the male gaze has often been to cinema; however, I would have liked to hear from a male actor who may have had a negative on-set experience too. Don’t get me wrong. The film is remarkably inclusive. Trans actress Alexandra Billings notably appears to speak about her experience in the industry as well as the importance of representation. But that representation should have been extended both ways to acknowledge the fact that anyone can be a victim. After all, there were a few men who came forward as victims the #MeToo movement.
Nevertheless, Body Parts is still effective. Considering the film’s subject matter, it never comes across too heavy or even somber. Instead, it feels more like an elongated education video. Once it's finally released into the world, it needs to be shown to every person who works on any film or television set in the future because the truth has been covered up for too long.
[Last week, the documentary Body Parts premiered at the Tribeca Festival. Directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, it is an eye-opening exposé on the history of nudity and sex scenes in contemporary Hollywood. Prior to the film’s premiere at the festival, Guevara-Flanagan sat down with our very own Dempsey Pillot to chat about it. In the interview they spoke about how the film came together, Hollywood’s need for intimacy coordinators, and more! Listen HERE]