Cinephile No. 721 “A Skin So Soft”
A Review of "A Skin So Soft” by Nathan H. Box
Director: Denis Cote, Writer: Denis Cote, Starring: Jean-Francois Bouchard, Cedric Doyon, Benoit Lapierre
Rating: 1 Star, SKIP
Jean-François, Ronald, Alexis, Cédric, Benoit, and Maxim are gladiators of modern times. From the strongman to the top-class bodybuilder, to the veteran who has become a trainer, they all share the same definition and obsession with overcoming their limitations. They are waiting for the next competition, working hard in the gym and following extreme diets.
Once in a blue moon, I will find myself in a darkened theater with a small crowd of people watching what appears to be a foreign language art film. On an even rarer occasion, it will dawn on me that I hate every second of what I am watching. This sends me into a panic. Do I hate this from a critical point of understanding what the director and writer were trying to achieve? Do I hate this because I don’t get it and that makes me feel less than? “A Skin So Soft” was one of those films that I hated. While I don’t think I missed the point, I would like to make a critical argument in hopes that you will save 90 minutes of your life for something more profound.
On the surface, this is a film about the world of professional bodybuilding and those who pursue such an obsessive sport. In the end, we are to marvel at their dedication, their relentless path toward unachievable perfection. We are to look upon these people as otherworldly, non-human. We should mirror their love of a goal and find some sort of application for our own lives. We are to bow down, worship muscle, and find ourselves enamored with the human form. As a documentary and an art picture, I understand what this film was trying to achieve.
As a film, built for two missions, entertaining and educating an audience, this piece couldn’t have been further from missing the mark. As a general rule of thumb, any story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. The characters in this film meander from one point to another without much purpose. Next, a film should introduce characters. At the very least, we should know their names. This film doesn’t bother to even introduce us to the human beings we are going to spend the next hour and a half examining. Finally, the characters must be given some obstacle to overcome. We need a reason to root for them. Instead, we watch them work out. Work out some more. Perform and then rest. Seriously, that’s the plot to the entire film.
In the end, this was a film that got my hopes up by bringing to the forefront a unique perspective. It started strong by using quiet and still action shots to lure us into the scene. With all this going for it, it managed to be a rather boring film devoid of a story or purpose. For these reasons, stay far away from this documentary. Go to the gym instead. It will be much more fruitful.
Be good to each other,
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