film 4 of 5

The Geography of the Body

Film Review by Dean Duncan Apr 10, 2015

The poem/narration utilized in this avant garde milestone is funny, in a kind of adolescent way. It’s quite a bit like that explicit and obscured erotic monologue in Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend (1967). Godard kept playing with the sound mix in that sequence, bringing the music forward just at the moment when his actor described the most prurient details of her recollected tryst. That sequence simultaneously exposes the workings of the cinematic apparatus, and the leering complicity of the bourgeois viewer.

Geography of the Body is similar. You listen for whether the narration is describing the body part on view, which you can’t quite accurately identify because it’s been so photographically magnified, altered, or obscured. Looking for hints, or maybe peeping furtively, you might also wonder if the narration is describing some situation in which that body part might come into play. Like Godard’s music and dialogue tracks, this picture/sound juxtaposition exposes the conventions and, if you like, shortcomings of so much conventional film production.

As for the geography of bodies, the Maas’s film is not just being provocative (1943), but constitutes what could be seen as a proper rebellion against excessive or unhealthy circumspection. In that spirit, Geography of the Body still provides a helpful demonstration of how nudes are not necessarily sexual, but also of how with nudity a degree of eroticism can never be too far away.

Also, it’s cool how extreme close-ups can defamiliarize the familiar. Everything’s abstract, at some level.