SHORT REVIEWS (30): TA PEAU SI LISSE / A SKIN SO SOFT
The first famous film character of a strongman is Maciste, who debuted in the enormous film Cabiria; from then on, this figure would raise to a center-stage status. Côté’s most recent filmic incursion centers on the world of body builders, those involuntary heirs of that platonic model of silent- film world. In his most recent delivery, the filmmaker confirms a legitimate obsession of his—to portray eccentric ways of experiencing human life, in this case showing six herculean men with well-defined individual characteristics: Some are defined by loneliness; others, by family life; one of them by spiritual assistance. What all of them share, without exception, is a mute form of narcissism—their muscles are an outer expression of the huge intensity of a self-esteem which is enacted by physically exhausting their bodies. What do they try to find through that demanding way of sculpturing their bodies?
Ta peau si lisse, Denis Côté, Canadá, 2017
Côté is not interested in athletic feats and the stubborn modulation of muscles represents the counter shot of training; what the director is interested in is the mysterious intimacy of his characters. Methodically following the everyday of these anachronic gladiators does not entail questioning them, but watching them at a fair, respectful distance; and, thus, an unexpected sensitivity is outlined. None of the characters will confess what prompts a man to focus on the strength of his own body; a simple gesture will be enough to guess their motivations: Various readings are fostered by the way one of the characters begins his day and has breakfast; or the keen attention another one pays to his family. Ta peau si lisse opts for modesty and mere suggestions and finds enough merit in unveiling the vulnerability of all its characters.
In the hands of another filmmaker, mockery and condescendence would have been close at hand, but Côté ascetic humanism and the evident admiration he feels for these men’s passion take the movie into a different dimension, one more adventurous than voyeuristic, which is openly enunciated during the film’s closing, at the extravagant weekend camp proposed by the director to his strongmen.
Roger Koza / Copyleft 2018