“Skin: A History Of Nudity In The Movies” Manages To Be Very Entertaining Yet Never Exploitative
It’s really hard to make a documentary about movie nudity. Even with the best of intentions, one can really easily fall into exploitation and titillation, as opposed to information. Luckily, filmmaker Danny Wolf is up to the challenge, as his doc Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies, is thoroughly entertaining, full of interesting stories, and looks at the naked body on celluloid as a piece of cinematic history, never going for the pure visual aesthetic. The result is a look at part of the industry’s past, present, and future, that’s a great view for anyone who loves the movie industry. Hitting on Tuesday, it’s well worth seeking out!
The film is a documentary about, quite literally, the history of movie nudity. Starting off with the silent movie era and going all the way to the present day, the focus is on the how and the why of it all. Instead of focusing on “great moments in nudity” or something purely erotic like that, there’s a huge focus on the changes in morality over the years that led to more or less nudity on screen. The examination of the industry’s history in this regard is centered on the artistic changes over the decades, as well as the political landscape that allowed or pushed back on those freedoms. Aside from an early focus on pre-code Hollywood, followed by the censorship that came out of the code and the formation of the MPAA, there’s a modern side to this too. Not only has there been a gender bias in terms of cinematic nudity, how will Hollywood grapple with asking performers to take their clothes off in the age of the #METOO movement? While there aren’t necessarily answers, it’s a really compelling guided tour of this bit of the industry’s history. Danny Wolf directs and co-writes with Paul Fishbein. Among the talking heads here are a who’s who in Hollywood, including Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante, Shannon Elizabeth, Pam Grier, Mariel Hemingway, Traci Lords, Malcolm McDowell, Eric Roberts, Kevin Smith, and Sean Young, among many more, including film critic Amy Nicholson.
Danny Wolf continues his prodigious year, after the trio of cult film docs in the Time Warp series. Here, he follows a similar structure, though this time there’s no group of people “hosting” things, which is a definite improvement. The same quality interviews, archival footage, and through line as the years past is on display, anchoring him as a documentarian to really keep an eye on. Wolf has such a great feel for Hollywood and the independent cinema world, he’s essentially becoming a professor of sorts for those who can’t go to film school. His flicks contain many of the stories you’d hear in an intro class, at a fraction of the price.
Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies is especially noteworthy for how it avoids exploitation. Yes, there are a multitude of nude scenes on display here, but not a single one is unnecessary. They’re all shown in relation to making a point about the time in film history, the type of scene that made waves in some way, or how it impacted the performer. It would have been incredibly easy for Wolf to fall into the trap of being sexy or pushing the envelope, but this is somehow about as wholesome and earnest as a movie centered around the naked body can be.
On Tuesday, a really interesting documentary hits the VOD circuit in Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies. If you love film, have an appreciation for its history, and are intrigued by this particular bit of the industry, it’s a must-see. Wolf is such a lover of the movie industry, in all its glory, that it once again shines through without question. Give it a shot and you’ll easily understand why…
Be sure to check out Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies, available on Tuesday!
(Photos courtesy of Quiver Distribution)