‘A Skin So Soft’ (‘Ta Peau Sil Lisse’): Film Review


Denis Cote quietly observes six Quebec musclemen in his newest doc.

Should you assume A Skin So Delicate is a puzzlingly tender title for a documentary about bodybuilders, you are heading in the right direction. Quebec’s Denis Cote provides the anti-Pumping Iron on this quiet observational movie, lingering in intimate moments with males who flex for a residing and (with maybe one exception) discovering not one of the alpha-male vitality we’d anticipate. Like Michael Del Monte’s current fest entry Transformer, which adopted a professional bodybuilder’s popping out as a trans lady, this doc seeks the vulnerability in topics who dwell in pursuit of iron-man beliefs many people discover ridiculous. It is a area of interest artwork home undertaking to make certain, however an oddly charming one.

Having already made one film a few fringe sport (his Curling received awards at Locarno), Cote right here feels no want to clarify the world his six characters inhabit. It could be some time, the truth is, earlier than we discover that one isn’t just like the others: Maxim Lemire is an expert wrestler and strongman who has constructed up the energy to tug a semi tractor throughout a car parking zone however isn’t within the cut-and-ripped definition pursued by the others. (In a movie with out narration, titles or interviews, we solely catch a few the six topics’ names in moments of dialog.)

The opposite 5 males vary from a youth who’s simply setting out on the bodybuilding path — he weighs his meals on a scale, whereas his elders appear to intuitively know what they’ll eat — to males whose our bodies are preposterously articulated towers of muscle. For the image’s first 20 or so minutes, we meet these males in close to silence as they transfer by way of each day rituals. An enormous bald man whose black beard is as imposing as his physique grooms himself for the day, then picks footwear from a closet full floor-to-ceiling with sneakers; a shorter however very broad-shouldered Asian man struggles to take selfies in his storage after half-assedly taping his digicam telephone to the ceiling.

Most intriguing is the person whose shaved head has pug-like wrinkles, who we meet as he is consulting with an unnamed feminine consumer: He strikes his hand quickly round her, touching her evenly and testing the resistance of her outstretched limbs. This seems to be a form of physique work that pairs therapeutic massage coaching with emotional remedy and New Age psychic instinct. Later, we’ll hear him check with one thing he is doing as “Neuro Rehab Approach”; whereas that appears like malarkey, his sensitivity and a spotlight to his topics is clearly doing one thing for them.

The film makes no apparent try to know why these males have devoted their lives to bodybuilding, however its midsection does attend to among the life-style’s prices. Maxim’s spouse gingerly addresses his “moods and stress”; the storage selfie-taker admits he has little time to spend together with his toddler son between journeys to the fitness center. (We additionally see him prepare dinner a meal for his household, then stand alone within the kitchen and gobble a complete steak earlier than becoming a member of them on the desk for noodles.)

We do not fairly comply with these males out into competitors, however the movie tracks proper as much as that time, observing among the rituals (the primping and bronzing, the standing in entrance of followers to let bronzer dry) that precede these pageants. At dwelling and the fitness center, we watch as poses are practiced and males try the troublesome feat of smiling as they flex with all their may.

Lastly, Cote brings all six males out to a rustic home, presumably for no different cause than to tie the movie collectively. (Some appear to know one another already; some do not.) Shirtless, they paddle throughout a pond and solar themselves in a meadow. They strike poses for one another and strum guitar by a bonfire. Steering away from no matter small speak they could’ve made with one another, the director focuses on tableaux which may function the setup for a goofy, pastoral porn movie. As an alternative, he places these males to sleep alone in their very own rooms, shutting the door on them gently to allow them to awake refreshed and gleaming within the daylight.

Manufacturing firm: Artwork & Essai
Distributor: Breaking Glass Photos
Director-screenwriter: Denis Cote
Producers: Joelle Bertossa, Denis Cote, Jeanne-Marie Poulain, Dounia Sichov
Director of images: Francois Messier-Rheault
Editor: Nicolas Roy

In French and English
94 minutes




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