A Skin So Soft Screen 9 articles

A Skin So Soft

2017

A Skin So Soft Poster
  • I suppose if I had an abiding interest in bodybuilding, their individual situations might have been more compelling to me -- how one man is a fitness model, while another is a Quebec wrestling circuiteer, and yet another has difficulties balancing his bodybuilding regimen with his family obligations. But context is everything, and I kept expecting Côté to bring some unexpected frisson to the otherwise banal material.

  • The film discreetly steps around the personal motivations of its hulking men in favor of glimpses of their somewhat introverted, secretive auras, as if what brought them each this this point of extreme strength and absurd body mass was of deeply private concern. Which is why this gem of a scene—clearly manufactured by the director—of two of these taciturn Hercules edgily eying each other work out, brothers in this strange passion yet rivals in comparison, is by turns amusing and frightening.

  • A new mood is established [in the film's closing stages] that hovers somewhere between the utopian, the mildly homoerotic, and the mysterious, at which point it becomes clear just how much Côté is actually directing things, a realization that suddenly also applies to everything that's come before this point. Is A Skin So Soft thus a portrait of “real life” as a bodybuilder or a subtly idealized version of the same? The answer lies at some indeterminate point in between.

  • The film’s editing rigor reveals a rich variety of training methods, self-care routines, dietary and lifestyle choices, and how these men manage to fit training into their family lives... Cote is not here to judge, simply observe, and that empathy continues through to the film’s end... Even bodybuilders need to recharge their batteries, and "Skin So Soft," in revealing some of the vulnerabilities of its subjects, demonstrates the multifaceted lives these men live.

  • The film reveals a taut, sculpted structure culminating in a staged group excursion whose obvious calculation in introducing a new, pastoral environment and an (enforced) sense of community to a film previously set entirely in interior spaces and focused on loneliness does nothing to undercut its enchantment... Côté’s willingness to follow his instincts past clearly delineated boundaries has always been the source of his heavyweight strength. With Ta peau si lisse, he’s in fighting shape.

  • The film maintains a non-narrative discourse and it is faithful with its premise to the end. All that can define a narrative course is off-camera, such the constant allusions to a final competition that remain in simple ads. The final catharsis is totally different from what could be imagined, far from the artificiality, poses and routine. The encounter of all the protagonists in a bucolic space emphasizes the harmonious relationship of their bodies with nature.

  • Focusing particularly on the form of his subjects’ musculature and the textures of their flesh, Côté builds a vivid, wryly amusing, and increasingly peculiar portrait of this dedicated act of self-sculpture. His aesthetic approach intensifies the quotidian scenarios being observed, unsettling the ordinary through precise, rigorous cinematography and heightened sound design.

  • Shooting in an observational manner familiar from such prior outings as Bestiaire and Joy of Man’s Desiring, Côté captures not only the tender side of these outsized musclemen but also their passion and artistry. A deceptively simple concept rendered with quietly illuminating care and precision, the film furthers Côté’s unique talent for locating beauty and humanity in the most unlikely places.

  • An arthouse ASMR video cobbled from heavy breaths, a dash of energy healing, and the tender sweeps of Côté’s camera over monstrously bulked flesh, this portrait of a half dozen Quebecois bodybuilders revives the thrilled gaze of the earliest actualities, the “cinema of attractions”—and here I’m not speculating: early-cinema images of strongmen play alongside the credits.

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