Cinema Epoch // 2011 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // December 16th, 2011
"An exciting journey through the modern world of naturism."
American Nudist seems like a pretty straightforward title. With a few scantily clad women on the cover and the promise to take us into the modern nudist movement, audiences should know what they're getting into -- but nothing is that simple. While this promises an apparent expose on the current world of naturism/nudism, it plays like an existential self-documentary. However, in the final twist, it's actually all a huge piece of performance art. So, while it's being sold on its exploitation merits, the average viewer of nudie flicks will probably find the pretension a bit much, while the art crowd won't find the film for all its nudity oriented advertising.
Taylor (Tony Young, Violent Blue) is a filmmaker who grew up in Hawaii, obsessed with nudist resorts. When he's finally old enough to frequent on, he decides to document the movement. His passion for getting naked is only reinforced when he meets his muse, Angela
I hate to disabuse naïve readers, but nudist resorts are not Sylvan play lands where gorgeous men and women frolic in total abandon sans clothing. Maybe that's true for some of them, but, for the most part, nudists come from roughly the same demographic as the rest of the population. That means some people there are pretty, some are ugly, and most are in between. One of the biggest problems with American Nudist is that it is trying to cash in on the mystique surrounding naturism and nudist resorts. Like the nudie-cutie flicks of the '50s, this seems to be cashing in on the apparent innocence of nudism to get away with showing a bunch of naked people (and, let's face it, most of the audience is generally interested specifically in naked women).
American Nudist opens with our hero talking about his love of nudism, and then proceeds to give us the promised "tour" of modern naturism. That doesn't sound half bad. It wouldn't be, if "modern naturism" included almost exclusively women (we don't see a full frontal shot of a guy until almost 15 minutes in), and attractive ones at that. The exception is the interpolation of a "vintage" piece of video from a hairy dude explaining the history of naturism in the twentieth century.
From there, the film reveals itself as a non-documentary when our hero's "muse" shows up, dragging him further into the belly of the nudism beast. From there, things get weird. Not "mind-bending" weird in a good way, but "What is going on, and why am I watching it?" kind of weird. The film eventually seems to be about the main character's inability to make his movie and the existential angst that comes with that problem and perhaps the nudity of the community serves as a counterpart for his own inability to bare himself artistically. Maybe that's giving the film too much credit. What it boils down to is that the "arty" side of this film is old hat (because we've never seen an artist who has trouble with his creations before, right?) and the appeal of the nudity wears off in the face of the relentlessly "arty" moments by the film's second half.
American Nudist also feels a little weird because some of it feels like a strange advert for a website that offers nude news. The film almost plays out like they gave the filmmaker the cash to make a film promoting naturism and the filmmaker went crazy with it at some point.
Maybe there's a joke here I'm missing. That's about the only thing I can think of that would salvage American Nudist. The director has decent credentials (including a stint at NYU), so maybe I've just approached the film wrong, and, instead of a film about naturism, it's an existential comedy. Otherwise, not even the rampant nudity can save this flick from well-deserved obscurity.
The DVD itself is fine. The feature appears to have been shot on video with a shoestring budget. That means detail isn't great, colors can fluctuate, and blacks are not as deep as I'd like. However, considering the source this is about as good as I'd expect the film to look. The stereo soundtrack is similarly fine for what it is. Dialogue can sometimes be difficult to hear over music cues, but otherwise gets the film's message across. No extras are included as from a still gallery containing yet more nudity.
If this is a conceptual art project, I missed the point. If it's supposed to be remotely interesting, funny, dramatic, or erotic, American Nudist missed the point. The truly adventurous (or terminally bored) might seek this one out, but everyone else can find a better way to spend their time.
Guilty of having no direction.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery