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SKIN: A HISTORY OF NUDITY IN THE MOVIES: 3 ½ STARS. “not exactly clinical.”

“Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies” calls itself the “definitive documentary” on the subject and it is hard to argue the point. An exhaustive looks at naked folks (although to be fair, it is mostly women) on film from the early silent days to the present, from the Hays Code to #MeToo, it bares all in an attempt to contextualize how nudity changed cinematic culture. “Twenty minutes after they invented film someone started photographing naked people,” says one of the film’s experts

Not for the prudish, “Skin” is illustrated with graphic film clips, ranging from Hedy Lamarr’s “Ecstasy,” the first film to depict a woman having an orgasm, to Malcolm McDowell dropping trou at every opportunity beginning with “If….” in 1968 and culminating with Bob Guccione’s enhancements of “Caligula,” through to the werewolf three-way of “The Howling” to “Boogie Nights,” “American Pie,” Sharon Stone’s unwitting nude scene in “Basic Instinct” and beyond.

Using talking heads like Pam Grier, Shannon Elizabeth, Traci Lords, Mariel Hemingway, Sean Young, all of whom have disrobed for the camera, and directors like Kevin Smith, Amy Heckerling, Peter Bogdanovich who have directed others of them to do so, documentarian Danny Wolf assembles a revealing picture of a business that once thought appearing nude would ruin a career but is now an industry that expects and exploits nakedness.

“Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies,” isn’t exactly clinical in its approach, it veers between the academic, the personal and the leering, but never shies away from real discussions. It’s a history lesson on how political and artistic interests changed the societal landscape, sometimes to be welcoming of screen nudity, others times censorious. It examines gender bias, the creation of sex scene intimacy coordinators and the range of experience of those who have appeared nude for entertainment purposes.

“If I hadn’t done the nudity,” says “American Pie’s” Shannon Elizabeth, “I might not have a career today.” Contrasting Elizabeth’s experience is Chyler Leigh of “Not Another Teen Movie” who says, “I wasn’t prepared for the entire world picking my body apart.”

At two hours “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies” is everything you always wanted to know about sex in the movies but were afraid to ask.

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