BODY PARTS – Review by Leslie Combemale
A perfect compliment to the Nina Menkes documentary Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power released last year, director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s Body Parts speaks to the evolution of sex on screen from a woman’s perspective, and the continued toxicity that has led to calls for lasting change in the film industry. The film offers a valuable history lesson on the impact of straight men running things in Hollywood from early on and the exploitation that resulted from that power. It includes interviews with women who were manipulated as part of that system and experienced abuse. Many of them number among the advocates at the forefront of shifts in safety and consent of all those involved.
Included in the discussion are performers Jane Fonda, Rosanna Arquette, and Alexandra Billings, and directors Joey Solowąy, Angela Robinson, and Karyn Kusama. They talk about the need for redefining what sexuality is onscreen, making it more inclusive and more balanced. If kids of all gender identities and expression watch movies and tv from childhood, a fixation on cis-gendered, heteronormative sexuality and nearly pervasive focus on male pleasure can only result in a very negative impactor those kids, and on society as a whole. We hear from body doubles who’ve been a best kept secret in the film industry, and have been seen far more often onscreen than anyone might imagine while being uncredited and paid less than stunt people. What is unacceptable has been accepted for decades.
Body Parts will also have many a viewer standing up to bellow, as I did, “Goddess Bless the intimacy coordinators!” to everyone and no one in particular. The film really shows how these professionals are making all the difference on set and changing the way sexuality is not only filmed, but portrayed onscreen. They prove with their work that believability, professionalism, and consent needn’t be sacrificed in the name of art. They are present to call to order and to account those (mostly men) who have blithely expected to be forgiven when they change or break the rules.
Body Parts is eye-opening and fascinating in showing not only where the film industry has been in terms of portraying sex onscreen, but where the industry can go when guided by advocates with integrity and genuine concern. Certainly many female film fans and feminists already know change is needed, now through this documentary, many more out there will be made aware of why it’s needed, and how that can happen.
4 out of 5 stars