This minimalist approach to maximalist bodies offers an intimate look at six men whose lives are centered on their physical performance and appearance. “A Skin so Soft” is at once observational and poetic, using little dialogue and no music as the documentary shares their experiences.
In Denis Côté’s quiet but effective French-Canadian film, Jean-François, Cédric, Benoit, Maxim, Alexis and Ronald each have different goals for their bodies, whether as a bodybuilder, wrestler, strongman or personal trainer. “A Skin so Soft” spends time with each man as he goes about his day, including lifting weights, carefully portioning meals and enduring physical therapy. It offers insight into their daily lives, pain and sacrifice.
The lack of dialogue and score concentrates our attention on their physiques and their individual struggles. With everything else stripped away, the audience can’t help but witness a grimace and hear the labored breathing as the men try to better themselves and their bodies in a variety of ways.
“A Skin so Soft” may initially try viewers’ patience as they’re acclimating to its leisurely pace and refusal to offer context or explanation for what they’re watching. However, Côté’s film patiently paints a picture of men who are more than their bodies, revealing the emotions beneath the skin and muscles and challenging perceptions about them.
‘A Skin So Soft’
In French and English with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills