Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 5, 2018

A Skin So Soft

Filed under: Film,health and fitness — louisproyect @ 5:15 pm

Although it is far afield from the sort of film I tend to review, I would be remiss in not recommending the documentary about body-building titled “A Skin So Soft” that opens at Anthology Film Archives tomorrow. Given its subject matter, you’d think that the Anthology that shares my overall political/artistic preferences would be the last place in the world to show a film having anything in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Pumping Iron”. In fact, it does have little in common and is much more of an edgy art film that is totally riveting.

This is a 2017 documentary directed by director Denis Côté that focuses on six body-builders in Quebec who we see on their daily rounds, either lifting weights or walking their dog. Unlike “Pumping Iron”, we hear almost nothing from the principals except for very mundane chatter with their wives or the people they are training, who in two instances are their wives.

The overarching theme of “Pumping Iron” is male aggression, with Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno facing off. In “A Skin So Soft”, it is mostly camaraderie with a strong sense that the men are almost like sculptors using their bodies as raw material. Their pursuit is not so much a worship of masculinity but of beauty. Despite the sheer strangeness of seeing biceps the width of automobile tires, you never get the vibe that these are steroid-gobbling creatures ready to beat a stranger to a pulp.

Indeed, the rituals of depilation, oiling, and posing have the aura of beauty contests rather than gladiator contests. At the end of the film, the six men go off to a country retreat at the director’s expense apparently to swim, sunbathe and relax. Despite the homoerotic suggestion of this scene and other scenes, it is much more like young boys at summer camp.

Director Denis Côté is an extraordinary talent and I hope to track down more of his films. Once again, you will be richly rewarded by a trip downtown to Anthology Film Archives for a screening of “A Skin So Soft”.

1 Comment »

  1. I must confess you make it sound very intriguing. Bodybuilders in search pf beauty is certainly a concept which i have never heard or seen. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Comment by adreamy1 — July 6, 2018 @ 7:48 am


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