Forgetting Sarah Marshall has sparked recent debates about full frontal male nudity in film. Why haven’t we seen more of it? Should we ever see it? Why does it have to be Jason Segel’s penis, isn’t Paul Rudd in that movie??
As for myself, I am a huge proponent of full frontal male shots. I am in the “More Penis More of the Time!” camp. Whoever, where ever, whenever, penis shots need to play a catch up game with female crotch shots. If we’re going to allow a supposedly free speech, equal society show us nudity in R-rated films, better make it male and female, no matter how grotesque balls are! Yeah!
So here is my top five list of films featuring male full-frontal nudity. These films represent the best use of nudity in the best narrative films. To qualify for the the list the male must be alive and active, and the film cannot be a documentary.
1. Sideways – Alexander Payne tends to use nudity to its full, hilarious, potential. Following up on Kathy Bates’s nude hot tub scene in About Schmidt, here we see some fat dude running down the street naked and pressing his genitals against a car window. And who doesn’t want to see a smooshed wiener? Sort of calls attention to that scene in Cool Hand Luke where the woman washes her car in front of the inmates, breasts flattened and wet against the glass, doesn’t it?
2. The Pillow Book – Infamous for baring it all – my boyfriend, Scott said “I’ve seen his penis more times than I’ve seen my own” – Ewan McGregor has numerous, drawn out, quiet, naked scenes in this film, as do a vast number of other individuals. Nude bodies covered in primarily Chinese and Japanese characters become more beautiful as objects (representations of books) than they ever were as actual bodies. In fact, genitalia are actually made into art in this film when they are drawn on and used as part of the overall canvas. I haven’t seen Greenaway’s other films, but I have heard that he often treats nudity carefully and responsibly, as he certainly does in this film.
3. The Piano – Finally! A female perspective, right? This seems to be a common cry among fans of Jane Campion, a woman who negotiates her own, unique way of manipulating both the male and female body. Here Harvey Kietel, no stranger to droppin’ his trousers on camera, is the object of the gaze, giving females a little break for once. No one can explain it, but suddenly the elderly gentleman is rugged and sexy. (Compare this, now, to his performance in Taxi Driver…) What I like about this film is that the nudity is carefully selected and theoretical, meant to be a feminist statement rather than an aesthetic decision. I haven’t seen In the Cut, yet, but I hear similar things go on with Mark Ruffalo.
4. The Fisher King – This film isn’t the greatest example of Terry Gilliam’s work, or Jeff Bridges, but, to me, it is the best performance Robin Williams has ever given. He’s just crazy enough that you remember he’s Robin Williams, but not crazy enough that you want to rip those nylons off him and shove them down his old-lady-British-accented throat. Plus, he runs around naked as the day he was born. (“He necked!” as my grandmother said when we were watching this film) The nudity here is vulnerable and sensitive. All we get are brief glimpses, but we don’t want any exploitation of this man’s vulnerable state. As it is filmed in darkness and with quick cuts, we get a sense of his insanity, while still recognizing the moment for what it is: a nice romp between friends.
5. The Simpsons Movie – Again, not a great movie, but … wow! What a great use of male nudity! The scene with a briefly naked Bart mocks the ever elusive screen penis in the best ways. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard…except maybe I did when I was watching Jackass 2…