Updated October 5, 2016

Family-Friendly Naturist-Friendly Movies


    Paul LeValley is writing a series of reviews in the AANR Bulletin.  When they are no longer current, they will be posted here.

For the whole family
Brother Sun, Sister Moon
Child Bride
Huckleberry Finn and His Friends
The Invisible Kid
Kirikou and the Sorceress
The Nude Bomb
Pollyanna
Popi
Robby
Shadrach
Tom Brown's Schooldays
Tom Sawyer
The Wild Child
Windwalker
Zootopia

For teens and older
Alice's Restaurant
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
The Blue Lagoon
Buster and Billie
Calendar Girl
Dances with Wolves
The Emerald Forest
Flirting
Friends
The Genesis Children
Hair
The Harrad Experiment (on the Visionary Colleges page)
Heaven Help Us (Catholic Boys)
Just One of the Guys
The Naked Mile (near the bottom of the Streaking page)
Lord of the Flies
Paradise
Paul & Michelle
Point de Fuite (
The Vanishing Point)
Romeo and Juliet
Sixteen Candles
Steel Magnolias
Wildthings
You Are Not Alone

Barely mentioned  (nude, but mostly of adult interest)
Calendar Girls
Castaway (not Cast Away)
The Cement Garden
Nell
Shakespeare
    Macbeth
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    Much Ado About Nothing
    Prospero's Books (The Tempest)
 A Shot in the Dark


Nudist-Friendly Movies You Can Watch with Your Children (Feb. 2014)

    Normally, this column will be short.  But this first time, I need to explain what I am doing.

    There are people who know a lot more about movies than I do.  But nobody is writing about things nudist adults and their children or grandchildren can do together.  The main value of these movies is the family discussion afterward—about topics raised, such as school bullying or equal respect for girls and boys.  Therefore, these are not the latest flicks playing at your local cinema, but classic movies and forgotten gems you can watch together at home.

    I came to film rather late in life.  I had not realized that the 1970s were a sort of golden age of child-friendly, nudist-friendly movies.  That was before the confusion and hysteria about so-called child pornography scared a lot of movie-makers away.  By now, some of those films are popular favorites at your public library, or available for a dollar or so at your neighborhood thrift store.

    At my age, I don't have little children underfoot.  I have pretty much retired from college teaching, but still work with teenagers, and have a fair grasp of what they can handle.  They can handle some uncomfortable topics.  My aim is to point out films meaningful to young people, that happen to include a bit of natural nudity.

    I will probably discuss two movies each time: one for the whole family (including small children), and one for teens and their parents.  We all know that families change; what is inappropriate for your child now may be fine next year.  This column is no substitute for parental guidance.

    Movie ratings are not much help, because the people who decide those things seem to think one skinnydip is the equivalent of about five murders.  Likewise, the fine list of naturist-friendly movies at http://www.clothesfree.com/movies.html contains some with far more violence and ugliness than I welcome into my living room.  You will not agree with all of my choices—or all of my rejections.  That's OK.

    I am aware of only a limited number of nudist-friendly movies—especially for the younger children.  I welcome any suggestions of favorites at your house.  Just write paullevalley@peoplepc.com.

    Now for this season's picks:

For the whole family

    Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998) is a cartoon for all ages.  This west African folktale has survived through the generations because it contains wisdom that parents, children, and grandparents can equally appreciate.  It's about a baby boy who accomplishes heroic deeds, and saves his people.

    In true African fashion, the women live topfree, and children go nude.  American theatre owners kept the French movie out of this country for four years, insisting that the artist, Michel Ocelot, paint clothes over all of his figures.  He refused.

    As a home video, the movie is available only in French, with English subtitles.  So the kids have to be old enough to read—unless you want to read the captions to them.  It is all worth the effort.

    With the cartoon's popularity, the artist has released two spin-off films in 2005 and 2012.  Both are again in French.  So far, only Kirikou and the Wild Beasts is available with English subtitles.

For teens and older

    I remember in the late 1960s and early '70s, teenagers were rebelling against the expectations of their parents, but found a lot in common with their grandparents.  Time has rolled around.  Today's teenagers can sit down with their hippy grandparents who lived those experiences, and watch—not one, but two—classic movies together.

    Hair was the ultimate sixties musical, though the movie version had to wait a decade until 1979.  The original stage play was a joyous in-your-face songfest, a be-in, a rock-rhythm hootenanny.  The movie makers decided it needed a plot, so they added a lame one about a ranch boy enjoying one last weekend of freedom in New York's Central Park, before reporting for military duty in Vietnam.  It's not the same, but much of the great fun still comes through.

    Young people are singing right out loud about such forbidden topics as race, sex, drugs, and peace.  No one should be surprised that one scene of this movie about the sixties is a hallucinatory drug trip.

    The musical originally ended with all of the young actors nude and facing the audience on the dimly lit stage, while singing "Let the Sun Shine In."  That nudity was later moved to just before the intermission, so actors could return for curtain calls at the end.  The tamer movie instead gives us a nighttime skinny-dip, with bare butts and breasts, while avoiding any frontal nudity below the belt.

    Still, the music of a generation continues to throb with joy and significance.

    For another perspective on the sixties and the Vietnam draft, also watch Alice's Restaurant (1969).  This is a true story about Arlo Guthrie's singing commercial that grew into a movie.  Some families have made it a Thanksgiving tradition to re-watch this film every year.

    Before seeing it, today's teenagers need to be reminded that Arlo's father, Woody Guthrie, was the mid-twentieth-century's greatest folk song writer.  But illness debilitated him by the sixties.  Pete Seeger, another folk song legend, puts in a cameo appearance singing Woody's songs.

    The plot begins when a couple in a strained marriage buy an old church and turn it into a hangout for all their young hippy friends.  Despite the cover art, there is not much nudity in this movie—just one pair of bare breasts.  Even for the army physical exam, cameramen aimed above the waist.

    My disc offers the option of viewing the film again, with commentary from Arlo Guthrie today.  That is an excellent reason for seeing it twice.

    So watch all three of these movies together, and start some family discussions.  If you don't have family, they're still great to watch.


Nude Swimming in School (May 2014)

    Today's topic is schools—boys' schools—and the nude swimming that was a part of them for centuries.

For the whole family:

    Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951) is a movie about school bullying at Rugby in England.  Thomas Hughes wrote the book a century earlier in 1857, back when long-windedness was in fashion.  It makes heavy slogging today.  (The bullying takes up only a chapter-and-a-half during Tom's first year or so at the school.)

    The book has been made into a movie five times.  Only the 1951 British version, starring John Howard Davies, includes the skinny-dipping which was a part of every schoolboy's experience in the nineteenth century.  After all, the events happen in the early 1830s, and swimsuits wouldn't even be invented until about 1870.  Hughes wrote that during warm weather "they spent a large portion of the day in nature's garb by the river side, and so when tired of swimming, would get out on the other side and fish."

    In the 1830s, Dr. Thomas Arnold (father of poet Matthew Arnold) was reforming Rugby school.  He cleaned up the bullying, brought in modern subjects, yet firmly believed in the ancient Greek ideal of a well developed mind in a well developed body.  Athletics (including swimming) formed an important part of school life.  You don't need to understand the rules of cricket or Rugby football to appreciate the film.

    By the way, we learn from the book (but not the movies) that beer was regularly on the school menu.  How times have changed.

    Be aware that the 1951 movie was made in black and white.  It is still readily available.

    Here is a fine opportunity for parents to openly discuss bullying with their children.  You will need to explain beforehand that in English schools, "fag" meant a younger student running errands for an older student—nothing more.

For teens and older:

    Heaven Help Us (1985) is a forgotten gem of a movie.  It takes us inside a Catholic boys' high school in Brooklyn in 1965.  (The film is known in Europe under the title, Catholic Boys.)  Except that the girls go to a separate school, and the teachers wear robes, it is much like any other inner-city school during the early sixties.  The rough talk rings true.

    The big-talking bully in this case quickly joins the hero and some other misfits, to form an oddly assorted group of loyal friends.  The real bully is one of the teachers.

    Among the daily activities, we see the boys lined up nude beside the school swimming pool.  The first view is frontal, blurry, and brief.  Then we see them from the back and sides, while their instructor gives them a grouchy pep talk.  This is not central to the plot—just a routine moment in an ordinary school day.

    A bit of history:  In the early years of the twentieth century, schools in larger cities built indoor swimming pools.  Lint clogged the early filters, so nudity was mandatory for everyone—including the teachers.  All classes were single-sex.  After World War II the nudity requirement relaxed for girls—but not for boys.  They still were expected to do the manly thing and swim nude.  On rare occasions, that even extended to competition between schools before a mixed-sex audience.

    But by 1965, most American public schools had switched to requiring swim suits.  Some private schools and the YMCA held onto traditional nude swimming for another five or ten years.  And so the movie shows us the waning days of a standard dress code that had been a part of boys' schools for centuries.

    But what about a nude classroom?  We must turn to imagination.  On YouTube, you can find Olivier Smolders' ten-minute film of 1988, Point de Fuite—which translates as The Vanishing Point.  A Belgian teacher walks into a high school geometry class to find her male and female students all nude.  She eventually joins them, but they are tricking her.  Do NOT buy the disc.  It contains many other dreadful things you don't want near your children.  Be content to watch the only good part of this one on YouTube.  Make sure you have a version with English subtitles.

    Though no movie will show it to you, boys of all ages in ancient Greece spent their entire school day nude.  In Egypt, neither boys nor girls wore any clothing until well into puberty.  During our lifetime, an ancient and venerated tradition has ended.  Why?


Two Classic Movies by Zeffirelli (July 2014)

    At the risk of telling people what they already know, let me recommend two film classics directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

For the whole family:

    Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972) tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi.  There are no children in this movie, no slapstick humor, none of the usual gimmicks to lure kids into watching.  Yet it is a fine uplifting film for the whole family to experience together.  In fact, parents need to be there during the first several minutes, when younger children witness St. Francis having nightmares about his war experience.

    The rest is simple joy—helped along by Donovan's heartfelt songs.

    The turning-point comes when St. Francis famously strips off all worldly goods—handing his clothes back to his cloth-merchant father—and appearing in all his naked splendor before God.  Naked ascetics exist in several religions.  But St. Francis is the best-known and most beloved Christian example.  We only see him from the back, yet we also see the sense of wonderment and comprehension on the faces of bystanders.  Yes, nudity can be a religious experience.

    The movie ends after Pope Innocent III, the most powerful pope in history, gives his blessing to the founding of the Franciscan order of monks.  We do not see Francis' trusting female friend also start the Poor Clares.  (Actually, she was twelve years younger than him—a fact that Zeffirelli chose to ignore.)  But we see enough to tell the story.  The movie captures the best of the Christian spirit, in all of its loving simplicity.  Watch it as a family.

For teens and older:

    Shakespeare's ever-popular Romeo and Juliet has been filmed more than 75 times around the world, including opera and ballet versions like West Side Story.  Yet Franco Zeffirelli broke new ground in 1968.  He used young actors, instead of experienced veterans.  He put them in authentic Renaissance clothing, with young men proudly strutting around town in their brightly colored codpieces.  And we see Romeo and Juliet waking up nude—as most people do on the morning of their honeymoon.

    How did Shakespeare play this scene?  At the back of his open stage, there was a small curtained room, with another one like it upstairs off the famous balcony.  Shakespeare gives us double action: downstairs, Juliet's parents plan her marriage to count Paris, while upstairs, Juliet is already celebrating her honeymoon with Romeo.

    Nightshirts had just been invented in Shakespeare's time.  Only a few very rich people owned one.  Most of Shakespeare's audience had never seen such an outfit, and would have laughed at the idea of putting on clothes to go to bed.  (In the next century, Puritans would try to get everybody into nightshirts, as a way to dull the senses.)  Shakespeare's audience expected people to arise nude from bed.

    Yet another problem complicated that.  There would be no actresses for another fifty years.  Young boys played all of the female roles.  That was how they served their apprenticeship.

    So how did Shakespeare do it?  When the curtain opened, awakening Romeo could bunch the sheets in front of him as he reached over and pulled on his trousers.  (No one wore underwear then.)  And Juliet could wrap the sheet around herself as she rose.  In a more private setting, Zeffirelli gives us a lingering view of Romeo's bare butt, and a blurred flash of Juliet's breasts.  (Did I see that, or didn't I?)

    This scene gives high school English teachers fits.  Some skip it; others show it without comment; I know one otherwise excellent teacher who is wide enough to stand in front of the television screen, blocking her students' view until that scene is over.  All can be under pressure from parents and administrators.

    I have taught this movie many times—mostly to high school Freshmen and Sophomores.  To avoid snickers about the codpieces, I like to begin with a study of Renaissance art: examples such as Michelangelo's David, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, and Leonardo's Vitruvian Man.  The excitement of the Renaissance was the discovery of man and human potential.  People took pride in who they were, and in their bodies.  Teenagers can understand and respect this healthy attitude.

    By the way, small breasts were in fashion for Renaissance girls.  A similar thing happened in the 1920s.  The actress playing Juliet was not built that way, so they tried cramming her into the tight Renaissance bodices anyway; it didn't work.

    Young people who don't attend churches where they still use a lot of "thees" and "thous" may find the Elizabethan English going by too fast.  Turning on the English subtitles can help.  But viewers won't miss a lot, because most of the dirty jokes were taken out of the movie version.  I always have to explain that Shakespeare wrote for two audiences: aristocrats in the high-priced seats, and lowly groundlings who stood around waiting for the crude humor.  That is what makes Shakespeare's language so rich.  Double-entendre abounds.

    When I teach this movie, I like to follow with Tchaikovsky's musical version of the story.  Actually, he just captured certain moods: peace, street fighting, love, funeral.  Some teens find the two intertwining melodies of its love theme even more gripping than the play or the film.  Definitely, listen for yourself.

    In the years since this movie appeared, several of Shakespeare's other plays have been filmed with a bit of nudity: a bathing child and a madwoman in Macbeth (1973), lots of people bathing during the opening credits of Much Ado About Nothing (1991), nude sleepers in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), and more male nudity than is strictly necessary in Prospero's Books [The Tempest] (1991).  King Lear has rarely been staged with two nude men during the storm scene, but never on film, that I know of.

    The 1996 gangster version called Romeo + Juliet is far too ugly for watching.  And to the relief of squeamish schoolteachers, Romeo in the 2013 movie jumps out of his wedding bed wearing long john bottoms—centuries before they were invented.

    And so Zeffirelli is to be commended for two magnificent films that not only capture the spirit of their times, but also bring body-positive messages to young people growing up today.


Treating Boys and Girls with Equal Respect (Sept. 2014)

    This time, we look at a couple of gritty movies from the hardscrabble south.  Both have rough edges, but offer much for family discussion.

For the whole family:

    Shadrach (1998) provides some fine lessons in racial harmony and social understanding.  It's 1935 in the depths of the Great Depression, when an old former slave returns home to die in Virginia.  He discovers that his master's descendants have deteriorated into a bunch of foul-mouthed bootleggers.  But they remain decent people of compassion, who will see that the right thing is done.

    When the family goes swimming together, the boys do it nude.  Their older sister strips down only to her underwear, while the youngest girl jumps in the water wearing nearly all of her clothes.  It's an odd double standard of southern expectations for boys and girls in the same family.  The old slave, too, fondly remembers youthful skinny-dipping as the moment he felt most free.

    Be aware that this film contains salty language that you may not want to expose your children to.  Or maybe they've already heard it all.  Use your judgement.  The tape version is becoming scarce, but still shows up occasionally at thrift stores for a dollar or so.  The disc works only on European machines or your computer.

For teens and older:

    With a mostly off-camera rape and murder, Buster and Billie (1974) is definitely not a movie for the little kiddies.  But it wrestles mightily with teen concerns.

    It's 1948 in Georgia, and the double standard reigns supreme: boys are expected to learn about sex wherever they can find it, but for a girl to do so means total disgrace.  The same goes for teen drinking and smoking (even in front of the sheriff).

    Trouble begins when the handsomest redneck in the senior class treats a too-willing girl with respect.  When he invites her to church with him, that upsets the whole town's moral balance.  This is a tender love story that ends in tragedy.  But so is Romeo and Juliet.

    The skinny-dip scene is a classic.  For a whole generation of young people, this was their first glimpse of male frontal nudity on the big screen.   Though movie-makers commonly exploit female nudity, while shying away from naked men, this time, cameras show the girl only from the back or side.

    Men over a certain age will recognize the boys' bathroom with its open stalls and trough urinal.  Modesty was not really an option back then.  Such piling on of historic details gives the story believability and power.

    The tape version of this important film has become rare; Sunshine Vintage Movies are sole distributors of the DVD.

    Of course, no discussion of southern movies is complete without mentioning Steel Magnolias (1989).  This third film is wholesome enough for small children to be in the room, but the best parts probably stretch beyond their emotional experience.  It has rightly been called "the funniest movie you ever cried through."

    Among its many riches, we see two older women doing a radio broadcast from a boys' locker room.  These are not actors, but the actual high school football team of Natchitoches, Louisiana.  (That was in the days before boys became afraid to take showers.)  We don't see much—just a few bare butts—so one of the old ladies whips out her mirror to get a better view.

    The movie came from a play about resilient women who rose above the double standard of expectations, and took control of their lives.  The play happened entirely in a beauty parlor—no men on stage, and no mention of the locker room.  Likewise, a 2013 remake of the movie with an all-black cast watered it down for television, and left out the locker room scene.  Stay with the 1989 version.

    Shadrach, Buster and Billie, Steel Magnolias: these three classic southern films are worth finding and discussing, y'all.


I Met a Man Who Wasn't There: Invisibility in the Movies (Nov. 2014)

            As I was walking up the stair,
            I met a man who wasn't there.
            He wasn't there again today.
            I wish, I wish, he'd go away.
                                --nursery rhyme

    If it is not a contradiction of terms and ideas, today we look at a couple of movies from the 1980s about invisible naked people.

For the whole family:

    H.G. Wells wrote his 1897 science-fiction novella, The Invisible Man, about a man who can disappear, but his clothes can't—so he takes them off.  Since 1933, lots of movie-makers have had fun with the special effects needed for this concept.  And none had more fun than the makers of The Invisible Kid in 1988.

    The kid is actually a nerdy high school senior, trying to complete the scientific work of his dead father.  When his less mature friend learns about the invisibility powder, the friend's first urge is to sneak into the girls' locker room.  We briefly see two girls' breasts, and the boys' bare butts when the invisibility suddenly wears off.

    At one point, the heroine does an invisible strip tease.  We see nothing there but discarded clothes moving through the air.

    The film has all the dumb elements of a kids' flick: slapstick humor, a bunch of over-reacting dimwits, and a fast car chase.  And of course, the boy gets the girl.  Yet the first bad guy we meet turns out to have a little depth of character.  The high school principal is the real villain.  The movie copies bits from several other juvenile films of the time; as in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one more little scene comes after all the credits.

    This is a movie to watch after a bad day, when you or your family want some mindless enjoyment.

For teens and older:

    In The Emerald Forest (1985), we meet an Amazon jungle tribe known as the Invisible People because they grind emeralds into a paste, and paint their nearly nude bodies for camouflage.  No one is quite nude; males and females all wear something over the pubic area—even when swimming.  Breasts and buttocks are naturally visible.

    It is based on a true story of a blond boy kidnaped from an engineer in charge of constructing a huge dam.  The father finds the boy ten years later: a teenager raised in jungle ways, and about to marry.

    The dam project has displaced a nasty group of cannibals, who are now invading the lands of these gentle Invisible People.  When the menfolk are away, Fierce People overrun the village, and sell the young women to the white owners of a bordello on the frontier.  Father and son work together to rescue them.  As the girls return to the purity of nature, the first thing they do is throw off their humiliating clothes.

    The father comes to realize that his dam will destroy the traditional way of life that his son has chosen.  He is prepared to blow up his work of ten years.  But that proves unnecessary; nature takes care of itself.

    Yes, there is violence in this movie; yet the beauty of natural living leaves a far more enduring impression.  When young men attempt to enter the bulldozer-ravaged landscape, the old chief warns, "We are not invisible in the dead world,"—only in the land of green and living things.  As the writing on the screen says at the end, these people still know what we have forgotten about blending naturally into nature.

    Funny or movingly serious, both of these films about invisibility and nudity show us people who are far more than their clothes.


Stranded on a Deserted Island (March 2015)

    Many movies have been made about people marooned on an unpopulated island, where they don't have to worry about what the neighbors think.  They can dress or undress freely.  Some films, such as Castaway (1986), contain considerable nudity.  These will interest young children and teenagers:

For the whole family:

    Robby (1968) is a retelling of the Robinson Crusoe story with kids in the leading roles.  When shipwrecked nine-year-old Robby meets a native boy, he follows the old plot and calls him Friday.  Next, he makes clothes for the happily naked kid.  From then on, they both swim nude, but wear clothes on land.  Why?

    The director was an ASA official, with his neighbor's son in the title role.  So you know it's good clean fun.  In its original version, the movie lasted half-an-hour longer, and was criticized because it dragged.  Later, they shortened the film for the home version, and added new music.  The scenery is beautiful.  It's a great hour of family entertainment with lots of things to talk about afterward.

For teens and older:

    The Blue Lagoon (1980) is THE teen nude movie.  A boy and a girl grow up on a deserted island in the Pacific.  With no adults around, they, in their teen years, have to figure out matters of sex (and later parenting) all by themselves.  It is a wonderful tale of innocence and naturalness in the midst of beautiful nature.

    For some reason, the teenagers also wear skimpy clothes on land, but of course swim nude.  Young Christopher Atkins did his own nude scenes.  Brooke Shields did not.  Her mother was on the set at all times, making sure the girl's hair stayed taped over her breasts.

    Henry De Vere Stacpoole wrote the original story way back in 1908.  In that age of lingering Victorian prudery, he devoted only a few pages to the years of teenage discovery.  Reportedly, the same thing happened in the British film versions of 1923 and 1949—though neither is available for comparison.

    The 1980 movie inspired several attempts to cash in on its success.  Move the scene to a middle-eastern oasis, don't waste time on innocent years, provide several nude scenes (mostly female), add a conventional villain, some chase scenes, and a couple of chimpanzees for dumb laughs—plus a happy ending—and you have the formula for Paradise, made just two years later in 1982.  Even the hairstyles are copied.  The film still has charm.  If you watch this one, make sure you get an old tape version; South Koreans blurred all the nudity on the disc.  Cover art has been discretely nude for European sales, but clothed for American editions.

    A year later, in 1983, came an Indonesian adaptation of The Blue Lagoon filled with prejudice against native people.  It was remade as a horror movie in 2010.

    Stacpoole wrote two more novels about the next generation.  Part of The Garden of God went into the 1991 film, Return to the Blue Lagoon.  But by 1991, producers feared to show any teen nudity—even when swimming.  Still, the sequel raises some interesting questions about the values of civilization, and is worth watching.

    Blue Lagoon: The Awakening (2012) is just a television rip-off of the title—about modern high school students wearing swimsuits in the Caribbean.  Yet the 1980 film remains a wonderful classic.

    Robby's adult rescuer asks, "Are you sure you want to go back?"  He does.  But the teenagers in some of the other movies have grown enough to realize that living naturally in nature has charms missing in modern civilization.  They have found their roots where they are.


What is Human Nature?  (May 2015)

    What does it mean to be human?  To be natural?  Two views have long persisted.

    One claims that man must struggle to rise above his animal nature.  Religion, clothing, civilization elevate him above the beasts.  The idea of progress is closely linked: things are getting better and better; we modern people have become far more civilized than, say, the ancient Greeks with their naked athletics.

    The other view insists that babies are born innocent, good, and free.  Children are likely to tell the truth, until society corrupts them.  Education should largely be a matter of discovering our own creative potential and our role in the natural world around us.  At certain glorious times, individuals have shucked off their false material trappings, and found their way back to the garden.  We can do it too.

    Without really thinking about it, most of us believe some combination of these ideas.  Let us look at movies contrasting these two views of human nature.

For the whole family:

    The Wild Child (1970) documents a historical case study from the late 1700s: the discovery in France of an 11-or-12-year-old boy who had been raised by wolves.  Completely naked, he had not learned language or how to walk upright.  Using the latest educational philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a kindly doctor set about bringing the boy into human society.

    There have been other known cases of children raised by animals.  Those children were never able to explain what it was like, because, unless children learn language by a certain age, they never will.

    The director chose to film in black and white, claiming that would give it a more authentically documentary look.  (Like rare original film footage preserved from the 1790s?  I don't pretend to understand his logic.)  The movie is in French, with English subtitles.

    This interesting documentary should not be confused with a much later film about a misbehaving girl called simply Wild Child.

For teens and older:

    For the same optimistic viewpoint, teen and adult readers may also be interested in Nell (1994) about a young woman raised in the woods and speaking her own language.  It includes a few moonlit skinny-dips.

    But after seeing the bestiality of two world wars, William Golding reached a more pessimistic view of human nature: Without ongoing civilization, without normal rules, people throw off their clothes and become savages.  That was the premise of his book, Lord of the Flies, made into a British movie in 1963.  The director chose the harsh contrast of black-and-white photography, rather than the subtleties of color.

    A group of proper schoolboys stranded on a tropical island quickly revert to savagery.  That includes some nudity, and killing off anyone who disagrees with them.  And they mesmerize themselves into that condition while marching and singing hymns.  So church and state have often led peaceable citizens into warfare.

    In Golding's book, all of the boys skinny-dip frequently, and sometimes stay undressed afterward.  In the movie, we see only the young and the innocent choosing to go totally nude—not the older half-naked savages.  Except for the rational fat boy, they excite themselves into fearing a beast.  The book points out more clearly that the beast lies deep within their own natures.  The philosophic boy who figures out some of these things does not play a significant part in the movie.

    The American remake of Lord of the Flies in 1990 used full color, but fell short in every other way.  They "improved" the story to make it more American—that is, more military, more gore, much more foul language, and without any religious irony or nudity.  Stick to the original version.

    [The Bulletin did not print the next paragraph.]

    The idea of kids run amok without the structure of rules shows up in other movies.  As an extreme example, unsupervised teenagers in The Cement Garden (1993) go so far as incest.  With a liberating nude dance in the rain, the film is actually a sensitive treatment of a potentially dangerous topic.  This one is best left for adult viewing.

    It is not unusual for movie-makers to examine basic human nature by looking at children free of rules and free of clothing.  Some reach an optimistic conclusion, some less hopeful.  Next time we will discuss a more joyous nudist-friendly film influenced by Lord of the Flies.


Beach Boys (July 2015)

    What brings more joy to the heart than the sight and sounds of children gamboling free and naturally on a beach?  In our video selections this time, they all happen to be boys.

For the whole family:

    Have you ever been tempted to sell your kids?  If so, Popi (1979) is the movie for you.  We meet a Puerto Rican father hustling to hold down three jobs in an effort to raise his two young sons in a rugged neighborhood of New York City.  (The boys have picked up some rough language, that occasionally slips out.)  When the father hears that Cubans are sending their children to the United States as refugees, in hope that rich people will adopt them and give them a better life, he decides to try the same for his sons.  This sacrifice is difficult because he loves them and they love him.

    The last straw comes when a neighborhood gang strip his sons naked and tie them up.  So he takes them to Miami, where we briefly see them playing nude on the beach.  (These cottontail actors were not experienced skinny-dippers—which fits with the story.)  There is no frontal nudity.  There are, however, a couple of spoken references to sex, yet the movie's G rating is deserved.

    From the beginning, all sorts of things go wrong.  Children will love the slapstick humor.  Parents will appreciate the bonds of family love.  Before the movie starts, you should probably explain US-Cuba relations and waves of refugees.

For teens and older:

    The Genesis Children (1972) is not your run-of-the-mill movie.  In the late '60s and early '70s, Lyric Films International produced several short amateur home videos that they sold through nudist magazines.  The 8-milimeter films featured pretty much the same group of boys—one time at a pool party, another time playing with motorcycles, another time on vacation in Europe.  None are available today.  (If anybody still has one, I would be curious to see a copy.)  The Genesis Children was their only full-length feature film.  By then, all but two of the boys were teenagers.

    We see eight boys from an English-speaking school in Rome recruited for a sort of live theatre on the beach.  They are given no script or plot.  So they act naturally, and go skinny-dipping whenever they feel like it.  They explore and just have fun.  This film contains more teen male nudity than any other movie I am aware of.  The focus is almost entirely on the boys; one person plays most of the adult roles.

    In the early '70s, the only model for a movie about nude boys away from home was Lord of the Flies.  So the screen writers decided to have the boys abuse their freedom and go too far (while the same hymn plays in the background that the trouble-makers marched to in the earlier movie).  They torch an old van abandoned at the seashore.  The realization that they have done something wrong ends the innocence of their Eden-like stay at the beach.  We see some biblical parallels.

    When the raw footage got edited down, most of the nude scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, and the movie ran way too short.  So the producers fired their big-name editor, and hired a new one to repair the damage.  He decided to go artsy.  He restored the omitted scenes in odd places, forcing the viewer to move back and forth in time.  Hint: All of the clothed in-town scenes are flashbacks that actually happened before the nude beach scenes.  The movie provides no blurry beginnings to let you know when you are entering a flashback; clothes and scenery are the signals.

    I showed this movie a few years ago at a Mid-Winter Naturist Festival.  Most of the older people in the room disliked it because it didn't follow a traditional plot from beginning to end.  But I like it for the sheer joy of living.

    The Genesis Children asks some profound questions, yet falls short in answers.  The movie also has great music—some of it reinforcing the aura of sacred nudity, other moments throbbing with excitement.

    But trouble lurked behind the cameras.  In the 1970s, the line between nudity and sex was blurring—even in nudist magazines.  Unfortunately, the man with the money behind these innocent films also invested in a company that produced pornography, and he got in trouble for that.  So all production ended abruptly.  Still, we have their one glorious movie.

    Popi and The Genesis Children both overflow with joy—symbolized by boys running free and naked at the seashore.


Boys Will Be Boys (November 2015)

    I had not intended to discuss movies about boys two times in a row.  But current events are dictating otherwise.  Read on.

For the Whole Family:

    American movies about Tom Sawyer have shown very little of the traditional nudity described in Mark Twain's book.  In 1938, David O. Selznick filmed a distant skinny-dip for the beginning of his movie.  Company censors removed it, and it has never been restored.

    A brief flash of bare butts while the boys swam in the delightful 1973 musical version of Tom Sawyer caused a sensation.  Aunt Polly openly sang about the boys "swimming in the nude."  With a compassionate Aunt Polly and Warren Oates' endearing performance as the town drunk, this was, and remains, a great family movie.  But after that, American movie makers grew more cautious again.

    Huckleberry Finn and His Friends (1979) was a Canadian-German production filmed in Canada—and that explains a lot.  With three skinny-dip scenes, the two-year TV series has been repeated many times on children's television in Canada, Germany, Scandinavian countries, England, Australia, Venezuela and much of Latin America—but never the United States.  The DVD is in a European format; even Canadians can't watch it now, except on their computers or a region-free DVD player (which is not expensive.)

    To get a more professional performance from children, movie directors frequently use actors older than the roles they are playing.  Several of the boys in this series were actually actors in their mid-teens.  They could shave their pubic hair for the skinny-dip scenes, but there was no easy way to disguise their deepening voices.

    The boys' handlers made sure the two main stars were photographed nude mostly from the back and sides.  Fortunately, Twain included a third boy in their island adventure; all lingering frontal views are of him.  Yet the skinny-dipping scenes were shot from such a distance that not much detail can be seen.  They come in season 1, episodes 1, 6, and 7.  The series is available as a 4-disc set, though the first disc (which happens to contain all of the skinny-dip scenes) was originally sold separately.  Dailymotion has posted all episodes on the Internet, so you can watch them that way if you don't mind a little jerky motion.

    Season 2 focused on Huck's raft trip down the river, and there all nudity stopped—despite his insistence in the book that "we was always naked, day and night."  For 130 years, no book illustrator or movie producer has ever dared to show Huckleberry Finn nude during his long raft adventure.

    Then this summer, The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City refused to exhibit the larger-than-life nude sculpture of Huck and Jim by Charles Ray.  The artist explained that Huck bends down to catch food in the water, while Jim blesses his effort.  The Art Institute of Chicago did show the group in an inconspicuous place.  Nervous officials at both museums said they were not worried about reactions of museum-goers, but of the ignorant people who never go to museums, yet could start a lot of trouble on Facebook or Twitter.  They also worried about differences in race and age—something our society obsesses on right now.  Nobody mentioned that the black man is circumcised—something totally inappropriate for the nineteenth century.

    Museums (and advertising) are full of female nudes—but not many males.  In contrast, movies have lots of skinny-dipping boys, but few girls.  Go figure.

For Teens and Older:

    What would Tom, Huck, and Joe be like at age 18?  Their kind of mischief remains timeless.  Calendar Girl (1993) gives us three similar boys in the early 1960s.  Just graduated from high school, they travel across country to catch a glimpse of their heroine, Marilyn Monroe.

    The title comes from her famous nude Playboy calendar picture, and the opening credits include some famous nude paintings.  This movie should not be confused with the plural Calendar Girls, about aging English housewives (which is also excellent, but not particularly appealing to teenagers).

    At one point, the boys pursue Marilyn onto an early California nude beach.  Though the cameramen filmed only a few backsides, the beach looks pretty authentic.

    It's a funny movie, until one of the boys actually meets Marilyn, and they have a serious conversation.  She was far more than a pretty body.

    This and the two Twain movies are all great fun to watch.  Actually, Tom, Huck, and the boys in Calendar Girl were not the only young people who knew how to get into mischief.  Next time: Girls Will Be Girls.


Girls Will Be Girls (Jan. 2016)

    This time, we look at movies about girls—girls who can get into just as much mischief as the boys can.

For the whole family:

    From 1934 to 1968, the Hays Code of censorship stifled Hollywood movies.  As a precaution, film studios hired their own censors to eliminate anything that might not pass the code.  In 1938, nervous company officials removed the boys' skinny-dip scene from the beginning of David O. Selznick's Tom Sawyer.  Then all through the 1950s and 60s, movie producers pushed the limits of the code, until it was finally abandoned.

    Walt Disney, with his solid reputation for wholesome family films, struck his blow for common sense about innocent child nudity in Pollyanna in 1960.  He recreated the banned boys' skinny-dip scene and put it at the beginning of this girls' movie.  Only this time, it had nothing to do with the plot—just setting the mood of small-town America at the turn of the twentieth century.  And he got away with it.

    The movie begins with a close-up of a nude boy's back, as he swings out over the water, and drops in to join several other skinny-dipping boys.  The part was played by a local extra, who got a new bicycle for his pay.  Pollyanna never goes swimming, though we do see lots of nude sculptures in the houses of the wealthy.

    Like Tom Sawyer, Pollyanna can get into her share of mischief—from sneaking out of her room, to climbing trees, to trespassing.  But mostly, her cheerful optimism makes a lot of grumpy people happy.

    Though few men and boys went to see it in the theatres, they missed a good family movie.  It's hard to keep a dry eye during the ending.

For teens and older:

    We look at two movies about teenage girls.  Both contain some of the same stock characters.  Both include locker room scenes.

    Sixteen Candles (1984) is about an awkward but good-hearted girl whose family all forget her sixteenth birthday.  (They're preparing for her sister's wedding the next day.)  She tries to not feel too hurt.

    The sight of a beautiful girl showering makes her feel even more inadequate, yet two very sincere guys take an interest in her.  (The younger boy grows as much as she does, adding some depth to an otherwise shallow film.)

    The movie is both sad and funny—if you like physical humor reminiscent of the Keystone Kops.  The loopy wedding has to be one of the most laughable on film.  Even some of the background music is ironic.  But be aware that the girls do not always use the most ladylike language.

    On the other hand, Just One of the Guys (1985) is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, where, for her safety, a girl disguised herself as her twin brother.  In the old play, romantic complications arose, and then the brother showed up.  The movie has only a younger brother (charming, though too desperately in search of sex).  Yet this girl must cope with something Shakespeare never thought of: high school gym class.

    Rather than admit she chose a boring topic, a student decides that her journalism article did not win an award because of her teacher's gender bias.  So she disguises herself as a boy, and resubmits it in another school, where it also gets rejected.  (The movie certainly makes fun of male sexist attitudes, but they can't be blamed for everything.)

    Meanwhile, the girl has to figure out what to do about gym class, and changing in the boys' locker room.  These were the days when students still took showers after gym class.  We only see boys above the waist or wearing jock straps—no actual male nudity on screen.  The girl does, however, bare her breasts at the end.

    (Eight years later, the producers tried reversing the situation in Just One of the Girls.  Though it included real locker room nudity—female this time—the male hero just wasn't convincing as a girl.  It flopped.)

    Today's examples show us why it is difficult to find movies about girls and innocent nudity.  In movie convention, pre-teen boys can skinny-dip, but to show a girl doing it would be too shocking.  Then at about age 14, the convention reverses: Female nudity becomes sexy and desirable, but frontal male nudity is just too shocking to show.  None of this makes much sense.  But that's the way most movies are.


Defective Detectives (Mar. 2016)

    Inept investigators have provided the humor for many a mystery movie.  And some people think that nakedness should be funny.  This time, we look at whodunits that involve nudity.  Unfortunately, none of them qualify as non-violent.  Few detective stories do.

For the whole family:

    The Nude Bomb (1980) was based on the Get Smart television series.  There are no children in this film, but the plot and the jokes are too dumb for words.  Ten-year-olds will love it.

    A mad scientist has developed a bomb that destroys only clothes, leaving people naked.  This possibility has the American president quaking.  World leaders wonder how they will be able to wage war if armies can't tell each other apart by their uniforms.  Actually, we only see some bare behinds and strategically placed briefcases and rifles.

    So they call in a blundering detective, surrounded by beautiful women and amazing gadgets.  He eventually saves the world from nudity.

    There are a few bad words, and a few jokes with double meanings that will pass right over the heads of the innocent.  The violence at the end is a spoof on all movie shoot-outs.  If it's any consolation, only clones die.  You may need to explain what cloning is, but the kids probably know more about that than you do.

For Teens and Older:

    If you want more sophisticated humor in a detective story that is beyond the experience of young people, take a look at A Shot in the Dark (1964).  It's part of the Pink Panther series, and has the bumbling Inspector Clouseau going undercover in a nudist resort.  Much of the plot revolves around marital fidelity (or lack thereof).  Other than the zany humor, there's not a lot to interest teens.

    Most teenagers would probably prefer to hone their skills of detection watching Wildthings (1998).  It's an edgy movie, not appropriate for younger children.  A rich Florida high school girl accuses her guidance counselor of rape.  He protests vigorously that he did nothing of the sort.  So who is telling the truth?  Or is the truth far more complicated than that?  I thought I had sort-of figured it out.  Then came lots of additional scenes during the end credits, and I realized I had gotten it all wrong.

    The detective also gets it partially wrong, and this time there is nothing funny about it.  They made two versions of this movie; you want the unrated (not R) version because it provides far more clues.  Just be aware that it has more sexy scenes too.

    In either version, we see some ordinary household nudity, as a man casually steps out of a shower.  A couple of girls also swim topfree, though one always keeps her back to the camera.  (The screenplay called for this girl of trashy background to reveal tattoos and body jewelry, but the producers accepted a no-nudity clause to get a well-known actress.  In contrast, the other actress refused to use a body double, playing her own semi-nude self wherever the script called for it.)  Both were in their mid-twenties, playing teenagers.

    Three so-called sequels have used different actors slogging through pretty much the same deceptive plot.  Don't waste your time or money on them.

    There are many mysteries in life greater than what lies beneath people's clothes.  I suppose one of them is how totally incompetent people manage to survive.  Another is how, despite facts, people can leap to such erroneous conclusions.  All is revealed in these enjoyable movies.


Turning Nude Stereotypes Upside-Down (May 2016)

    We've all encountered the misperceptions about nudists.  And we have grown rather tired of the coy ways nudity is almost-but-not-quite shown in the movies.  Let's look at two films that cleverly stand some of those conventions on their heads.

For the whole family:

    At last—a movie now playing in neighborhood theatres that deals with nudity and is fit for kids to watch.  That used to happen often in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, but in the twenty-first century has become a rare event.  Disney's Zootopia (2016) works at different levels for people of all ages.  Kids will see an action-packed detective story.  Sophisticated adults will see parallels to glass ceilings, racism, and stereotyping.  But nobody will miss the sly references to nudity.

     The animals have formed a Utopia where they all get along.  But, as so often happens, the cartoon animals all wear clothes.  For no very good reason, the crime trail leads through what they call a "naturalist" park where a few animals wear nothing.  Imagine that—animals without clothes.  How shocking!  But that's where any understanding ends.  The film-makers fall back on old stereotypes by showing us a bunch of hairy animal butts in awkward positions.  This scene lasts only a couple of minutes; still, the point has been made that clothing is not always logical.

    The movie comes in 3-D and regular versions.  The few 3-D effects are not worth the price difference.  There is no home version yet.

    For a movie with absolutely no nude people in it, the mere mention of nudity gave this cartoon a PG rating.  Ignore that, and enjoy.

For teens and older:

    Flirting (1991) is a story of interracial dating in Australia.  A misfit intellectual boy and a sophisticated daughter of the Ugandan ambassador find each other in nearby private and oppressive schools.  The time is 1965—just before the Existential "shape your life by making your own choices" philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre hit the streets in the hippie movement.  He is reading Sartre; she has met the famous man.  When they have to disguise their names, they choose Camus, another Existential philosopher.

    We get a brief view of the boys' showers.  But instead of the usual cutsie waist-up view in most teen movies, we see the boys only from the waist down—and not all of them with their backs turned.  Later, there's a glimpse of her breast.

    Teenagers need to know something about the Idi Amin dictatorship in Uganda to understand the ending.

    Don't be confused by the cover art that emphasizes one of the supporting actresses.  This is a thoughtful and tender movie about a boy and a girl with depth of character, who gradually win the respect of their more traditional classmates.

    Actually, this movie is a sequel to The Year My Voice Broke (1987), about the boy's first crush.  That earlier film is good, but without nudity, and in a quite different mood.  Flirting can stand very well on its own.

    So yes, thoughtful references to nudity can and do show up in movies that young people can watch and understand.  The encouraging news is that it occasionally still happens today.


Three Great Native American Films--July 2016

    This time, we examine three fine films about native Americans—and not a cowboy in sight.

For the whole family:

    Surprisingly few movies have been made about American Indian childhood.  Indian Paint (1965) is a good one, but it includes no nudity.  Let us instead look at one that does.

    For the warmth of native American family love, it's hard to beat Windwalker (1981).  A windwalker is the spirit of a person who has died.  In this case, the Great Spirit calls an old Cheyenne back from death to finish his task of finding his twin son, who had been stolen as a baby.  The movie should not be confused with the horror film, Wind Walkers, or with Windtalkers, about Navaho code messengers during World War II.

    No, this story happens during the 1700s, after the arrival on the plains of the white men's horses, but before the arrival of white men, themselves.  Instead, Cheyennes and Crows keep fighting each other.

    The costuming is completely inappropriate for the times.  We do see the little boys playing naked.  But their parents wear leather clothes to go swimming.  Women never covered their breasts during warm weather, until they had trouble with white settlers.  Here they wear the full-length dresses of the late 1800s.  The movie-going public get what they have become used to.

    Children may have a little difficulty following the plot because, at one point, the action keeps shifting between three different groups of people until they all come together.  Some phrases are spoken in Cheyenne and Crow with English subtitles, but most of the movie is in English.  Using native languages was such a new idea that the movie could not qualify for an Academy Award, for lack of a category; only foreign films had subtitles back then.  The American Anthropological Society has voted this the greatest anthropological movie of all time.

For teens and older:

    Dances with Wolves (1990) is a far grander film about a Civil War soldier who makes friends with a wolf and his Lakota Sioux neighbors.  He eventually marries into the tribe.

    The soldier of course bathes nude (though we see him only from the back).  But while the Indians camp along a river, we never see any of them swimming or bathing.  Three boys keep showing up where they shouldn't be, but they never strip down.  As in the earlier movie, the women all cover their breasts before they have had any contact with white women's dress styles.

    The tribesmen speak Siouan (with English subtitles).  We see everyone gradually learning each other's language.  And the theme music will stick in your head for weeks.

    This movie was immensely popular, and deservedly so.  Now that the disc is available, it seems like every thrift shop in America has about three copies of the tape version.

    If you take film seriously, you could also try Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001).  This Canadian movie re-enacts an important shift in Inuit history around 1200.  Sons of tribal leaders had a bad habit of murdering their fathers to gain power.  The hero came from a different family, and ended that tradition.

    It's not a movie to everybody's taste.  The plot jumps along slowly, and pale yellow subtitles against a background of ice and snow don't help a lot.  You will get lost if you don't first read about the legend and family relationships in Wikipedia.  Basically, the hero takes a second wife, the sister of his ruling enemies—and she betrays him to her murderous brothers.  He escapes naked from his bed (yes, Eskimos sleep unclothed), and is chased for miles across the ice.  Advertising on the case calls it erotic; we all know that nude running is nothing of the sort.  And the photography is honest—without shy camera angles trying to hide the nudity.

    Not as heart-warming as the other two, this long movie does not flinch from the tough realities of daily survival.  All three show us people centuries ago, living naturally in nature.

    With more languages and tribes than Europe ever had, the natives of North America cannot be understood by watching these three movies.  But it's not a bad place to begin.  Some other time, we will look at films about the lives of modern American Indians.


Growing Up Too Fast--Sept. 2016


    This time, we look at movies about young people growing up too fast.  Adolescents go through many natural changes, and perhaps a few experiments.  But a youthful experiment must never be confused with a lifetime commitment.  That is why people should not marry too young, or declare their sexual orientation before they have finished growing.

    These three classic films have always been controversial, but they can teach us much.

For the whole family:

    Child Bride (1938) deals with some heavy stuff, including a couple of off-screen murders, and hooded thugs with torches.  Yet most movie critics say children should not watch it because the twelve-year-girl with beginning breasts goes skinny-dipping.  (It would be OK for a boy that age to swim nude, but not a girl.)  I am more concerned that parents be there during the scary scenes.

    The girl's well-meaning teacher has filled her head with a bunch of conventional nonsense about being too old to skinny-dip with boys, so she does it with a clothed boy watching.  That's supposed to be better.

    The movie is set in hillbilly country, where children sometimes married way too young—and not always to people their own age.  This will require some explanation beforehand.  You may or may not need to explain moonshining.  And you need to be there at the end to clarify who stopped the villain.

    It is a black-and-white film, only an hour long.  Because it was independently produced, it escaped the censorship of the Hays Code that was paralyzing Hollywood at the time.

For Teens and Older:

    More than thirty years later, the charming heroes of Friends (1971) are not the sort of role models that parents want for their children.  He is a 15-year-old, irresponsible, rich English boy living with his too-busy father in Paris.  She is a poor, newly-orphaned, 14-year-old French girl, sent to live with an uncaring relative.  These unappreciated young people find each other, and run away to the countryside, where they play house for a year.  Though both are bilingual, they speak English with each other.

    Their initial embarrassment on bathing in a washtub is amusing.  (We only see them from the back or above the waist.)  But they soon get over that timidness, and find themselves pregnant.  He has to take up menial jobs to support them, and learns responsibility for the first time in his life.  Yet their love never fades.  He is there to deliver the baby.

    The movie ends with the police about to nab him as a runaway.  In the hard-to-find sequel, Paul & Michelle (1974), we learn that his father packed him off to an exclusive high school in England, where he graduated with honors three years later.  Back in France and admitted as a student at the Sorbonne, he is determined to spend the summer looking for Michelle.  He eventually finds her and their daughter, but not the dream world where they once lived.  The grim reality of supporting a family sets in.  While they sleep nude and she no longer wears a bra, this sequel continues to avoid anything frontal below the waist.

    Friends has nothing to do with a later television series of the same name.
 
    Another excellent movie, You Are Not Alone (1978) takes place in a small private high school for slightly troubled boys.  There are a couple of natural shower scenes, but the boys swim and sleep in their underwear.  They also sport the long hairstyles of the '70s.  The movie is in Danish, with English subtitles—including a few blunt expressions.

    Until now, I have hesitated to recommend this movie because it hints at possible homosexual attraction.  But with transgendered students and their bathroom use now in the headlines, the public discussion has moved way beyond this.  It is true that two boys kiss at the end of the movie, but nothing more happens; the young 13-year-old hero is simply looking for the affection he is not finding at home.  That doesn't make him gay for the rest of his life.

    I would not want to take the responsibility of showing this movie to a young person going through confusion about who he or she is.  Self-confident teenagers of any leaning can handle it with ease.  Or if your family is already in the midst of coping with gender-identification issues, this movie could be a way to reopen some family discussion and understanding.

    But don't rush into these things.  All three movies warn us of the dangers of kids taking on adult burdens too soon.


Contact the author: paullevalley@peoplepc.com

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