Tuesday, December 6

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Sensuality and the fine art of on-screen nudity

Even though I loved the movie Titanic, I will not waste space in the 'Prince' by defending its merits because whether you liked it or not, my 500-word column is surely not going to sway your opinion. However, I would like to draw your attention to a specific scene in this movie, where Kate Winslet disrobes so that Leonardo DiCaprio may draw her nude body in all its glory. When I watched this incident take place, I remember thinking to myself, "Now that's creative." I mean, how often in the movies (or in real life, for that matter) do you see romantic gestures that involve something other than just "getting it on." I found it quite refreshing to see characters engage in a highly sensual, yet essentially sinless, act of love.

About a week after viewing Titanic, I watched As Good As It Gets, another Best Picture nominee for the Academy Awards. Surprisingly enough, I discovered this movie also contains a "nude drawing" scene. Though the situation is a little different – Helen Hunt poses for a gay friend rather than her romantic interest – it does mark an important turning point in the plot, as the artist regains his passion to draw, as well as his passion to live (with a subject like Helen Hunt, who wouldn't become passionate?).


At first I hadn't thought much of this nakedness motif; I figured it was just a coincidence, until I watched Great Expectations. Sure enough, I encountered a third scene in which a beautiful woman poses nude for the sake of art. While watching Ethan Hawke sketch Gweneth Paltrow sans clothing, I began to think more seriously about this new trend. Why has Hollywood suddenly become obsessed with drawing nudes?

After many sleepless nights, I suddenly came to the realization that it is acceptable to show a drawing of a nude woman in a PG-rated movie – that's art – but it is not acceptable to show actual flesh – that's smut. By flattening the curvaceous bodies of these stunning actresses into two-dimensions, Hollywood can show more skin with less consequence.

But is that really a logical justification? After all, producers often add a few suggestive scenes to a movie specifically to raise its rating from PG to R. It is generally believed the higher the rating, the more serious the movie (although I know of some pretty intense Grated movies). This fact leads me to believe that the nude drawing scenes arise from artistic, rather than materialistic, aspirations.

Too frequently do characters in movies express their love for one another through purely physical acts; the process of creating art, however, is very metaphysical. It involves an intensity of emotion, a depth of understanding, an abundance of passion, all of which seem to be overlooked in the "typical" bedroom scene. Thus, the three movies mentioned previously seem to have shifted their focus from carnal pleasure to spiritual connection – the distance between the model and the artist eliminates all physical contact and in so doing, makes the encounter an intellectual, even psychological, experience. It actually becomes sexier NOT to have sex.

I admit that this view is a bit naive; after all, in Titanic and Great Expectations, the characters end up having sex a few minutes later, but at least there has been some attempt to expand the depth of a couple's relationship. It might do us all some good to follow Kate and Leo's example and engage in some nude drawings ourselves. I mean, life does imitate art, doesn't it? Perhaps if the average American couple posed nude for one another every so often, the divorce rate would decrease – though, the average American couple does not have access to body doubles, trick lighting, special makeup, second takes, unique camera angles. . . . On second thought, maybe we should leave this stunt to the trained experts. I repeat, do not try this at home!