Pathfinder // 2005 // 46 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Neal Masri (Retired) // April 28th, 2006
A journey through naturism.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that the vast majority of people who embrace the nudist lifestyle are people whom you would not want to see naked.
Naked in the 21st Century bills itself as a film on the history of nudism and nudist films, contrasted with the nudist lifestyle today. Just in case you think this might be a serious journalistic effort, the packaging touts the fact that Christine Nguyen of Playboy's Exotic Beauties is a guest "Nudecaster." Getting the picture yet?
When you start your nudist documentary off with a direct tribute to Plan 9 From Outer Space, I assume you expect to be taken only so seriously. After that bit of silliness, we hear from a nudist (or naturist as this film prefers) historian named Douglas Dunning. After about a five minute stretch of Dunning dryly recounting the history of naturism in Western society, the film jettisons its historical angle and gets down to showing lots of naked people.
Director T.L. Young documents his efforts to cast a fiction film he has written entitled The Naked Place. His auditions seem to basically consist of finding fairly attractive young actresses who will show up and strip down. Sounds like a scam to me. Mr. Young, it seems, does not have the courage of his convictions. He is virtually the only one on camera who does not strip down at some point.
The casting of Mr. Young's movie is a framing device for Naked in the 21st Century. Between casting snippets, we visit several naturist facilities. Viewers will also be happy to hear that the aforementioned Playboy model gets naked less than ten minutes into the film.
There is plenty of footage of people doing things naked that you would normally associate with being clothed (snowmobiling, for example). In between the nakedness, there are a couple of interesting bits of information. For instance, I was unaware that single males are generally unwelcome at many nudist spots as most are set up as couple or family destinations.
Several interviewees make the valid point that there is too much body shame and scandal associated with the naked form in American society. Quite frankly, a film that seems to be marketing itself mainly as a way of seeing lots of nudity somewhat contradicts this point. I think that the participants are sincere, it's a shame they do not have a more thoughtful film in which to air their views.
The film's brief 47-minute running time seems longer than it actually is. Towards the end, things get pretty laughable.
The DVD's special features consist of five deleted scenes totaling less than 10 minutes of footage. The deleted scenes are quite random and would not have added anything to the feature had they been included.
For low-budget productions like this one, you have to make allowances for audio and video. The movie consists of vintage footage along with recent footage shot on digital video. Video quality is all over the map, but of a level one would expect for this type of project. The Dolby Stereo mix is passable. Dialogue is clear and music comes through fairly well.
If this movie sounds like what you're looking for, I would suggest you give Girls Gone Wild a shot instead. Don't get me wrong; I am not one to shy away from nudity in movies. As a matter of fact, I generally consider it a selling point. You just have to wade through way too much junk to get to the nudity here. When you couple the low quality with negligible value as a documentary, there is not much to recommend about this movie.
An amateurish, tongue-in-cheek effort like this can be campy fun. If in the right mood, perhaps one might find this picture amusing. I doubt it though.
Where we could have had a thoughtful take on an alternative lifestyle choice, we have instead a film bordering on a leering exploitation piece. Not that there's anything wrong with nakedness for the sake of nakedness, just drop the pretenses. If I want to see gratuitous nudity, there are many other places to get it.
Naked in the 21st Century is guilty of sitting poolside without a towel wrapped around its waist.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 46 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes