Shooting a sex scene, as an actor/actress, is arguably one of the most challenging aspects of the job. Not just the potential physical nakedness of the work, but the emotional vulnerability of it all as well. So, one would hope that all involved would make it as comfortable an experience as possible, even though we all know that’s not the case. The documentary Body Parts is here to confirm some of your worst fears, while offering a potential solution for the future. Using the words of those who have experienced problematic sets, the doc leaves no uncertainty that things need to change. It’s not a happy movie, but as an important part of the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, it’s well worth checking out.
Body Parts paints a bleak portrait of where the industry used to be, in terms of sex scenes, while still showing a better path forward. The documentary doesn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of film or television, but the more you recognize these movies and shows, the better. Still, it works as an issues doc on its own accord. It’s going to get you angry at least, that’s for sure.
A documentary about the evolution of cinematic desire and how sex is depicted on-screen, particularly in mainstream American entertainment, the hook here is that it is all from a female perspective. For too long, it has purely been the male gaze dominating these depictions, leading to discomfort for the talent, bad ideas permeating society, and a distinct sense of unfairness. Considering how long this has been considered a hidden part of the business, it’s a revealing look at a practice we know all too little about, including the cost it can often extract.
Showcasing a number of talking heads, including the diverse assortment of Rosanna Arquette, Jane Fonda, Karyn Kusama, Rose McGowan, Emily Meade, Angela Robinson, David Simon, and Joey Soloway, the doc gets into the toll these scenes take on actresses, including the abuse that it has led to over the years. Regardless of whether you’ve enjoyed the many scenes depicted, knowing how they were shot, especially in the days before an Intimacy Coordinator, is positively chilling.
Director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan allows the stories of these actresses to largely be the focus. There are a lot of clips, but all are tasteful and only hint at the issues. In fact, one could argue that Guevara-Flanagan keeps the audience a little too comfortable, sparing them some of the harder images, especially considering what the talking heads are describing. However, watching Intimacy Coordinators at work is fascinating, so even more of that would have been interesting to see. Still, this is a well done doc.
Body Parts may well leave you shaken, especially if you care about how actresses are treated on sets. Whether it will lead to more widespread change or not is still to be determined. That’s just the sad reality of the world. However, as a moving documentary here at Tribeca, it definitely leaves a notable impact.