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Some Nudity Required (1998)



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Some Nudity Required is a documentary about the exploitation of women in low budget B movies. From the synopsis, one would probably assume it's an expose of a morally corrupt industry. It is true that the exploitation of women is viewed with disdain, but the film is much more than that. It's a paradoxical hybrid, really, because it's also sensationalistic in itself, although the images in this documentary are employed for a higher purpose. The film is also a confessional -- a good part of the film is devoted to a reflective account of the childhood and career of co-writer, co-director Odette Springer, who worked as a composer for several low budget exploitation flicks for Roger Corman. This subject matter, plus interviews with both male and female producers and directors of exploitation films provide a disturbing insight into the social sicknesses that create both the demand for such films and the meeting of that demand.

It's not all about money. I thought it was, and of course it primarily is -- without a demand for exploitative movies, they would not be made -- but interviews with the various producers and directors collectively reveal mentalities that don't have anything to do with money. Director Catherine Cyran reflects upon her disillusionment with Hollywood and her own befuddlement at how easily she fell into making trashy slasher flicks. In sharp contrast is director Jim Wynorski, whose remarks are unapologetically misogynistic, except that, disturbingly, he does not seem to realize it. Watch how his collaborators attempt to defend him by tying semantics into knots that defy all logic. The interviews with actresses also vary: Maria Ford feels humiliated by the exploitation of her body but craves acting too much to walk away; Julie Strain, on the other hand, is doing what she wants to do and has the attitude that she's exploiting the system, rather than the other way around.

Springer's personal story is just developed enough to inspire thought without providing definitive answers. (I'm not sure if this is a strength or a weakness.) She was abused as a child, she says, and admits to finding the images in exploitative slasher films repulsive yet enticing and wonders what draws her to something she finds so wrong. Does her career amount to therapy, or is it a lingering symptom of her past?

If Some Nudity Required has a flaw, it's that it can't decide if it is an objective survey of its subject or an defense of a particular moral standpoint. The film functions as the former but is tainted by moments of narration and interview questions aimed at the latter. Oddly enough, this incongruous combination works anyway: the leading questions seem to evoke answers that serve an objective purpose, and as for the narration, it neatly serves the function of one of the interviews.

This documentary will disturb most and probably evoke a varied divergence of responses. It disturbed me, but it made me think, and it stayed with me months after I first saw it.