BODY PARTS – Review by Liz Whittemore
I remember the buzz when Halle Berry reportedly got a half-million-dollar payday when she bared her naked breasts in Swordfish. I thought she was a total badass for demanding more money. It felt like we’d seen a crack in Hollywood’s patriarchal foundation. Berry has since denied the payment, explaining that she was taking ownership of her body. Until then, audiences had become desensitized to women’s bodies as public currency. Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s documentary, Body Parts, is a revelatory education.
The list of things I learned watching the doc is endless. Intimacy coordinators should be on every single set. I didn’t even know this occupation existed. I believe I audibly exclaimed, “Oh! Huh,” as I discovered the art of simulating oral sex. The technical aspects of intimate scenes are paramount to understanding how actresses should feel in the workplace. These scenes were enthralling for a performer and a writer like myself.
The power of female leads in the 20s and 30s got squashed by the introduction of the Hollywood Censors. For decades, sex scenes, regulated by patriarchal perspectives, shaped our perceptions of ourselves and told us how intimacy “should” work. That warped perspective has created generations of unhealthy relationships, unreported assaults, and continued abuse. As we know, this is not merely a film industry issue. We see men continuously conditioned into believing they are entitled to women’s bodies.
“Penises are pornography. Tits are art” might be one of the most relevant comments in Body Parts. The social commentary on each era concerning what was acceptable in cinema is fascinating. The male gaze has dominated cinema since the very beginning, then #MeToo and the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein ignited a culture shift.
Body Parts is one of the year’s best documentaries. The editing is a triumph. As figureheads speak, recreations and famous scenes throughout history play out, making the doc incredibly accessible to a large audience, cinephiles and casual film fans alike. Body Parts is such a conversation starter. It’s nothing short of a Wow.