Bare, directed by Aleksandr M. Vinogradov, is a documentary that follows the creation of an interpretive dance performance. The performance is what you’d expect from interpretive dance, aside from one crucial aspect: all the performers are fully nude at all times.
Naturally, the documentary begins with the audition process. Starting with a large group of men, the choreographer, Thierry Smits, eventually cuts them down to just 11. Once the rejections are over, the rehearsals begin in full force. Between the rehearsals, there are occasional respites where the dancers take a smoke break or goof off in the showers. On occasion, one of the dancers will skittishly raise a question or concern with Smits regarding the purpose of dancing around naked, and he’ll receive a vague answer that halfway makes sense.
“…all the performers are fully nude at all times.”
And that’s one of the problems with Bare. At its best, it halfway makes sense. At its worst, it grossly overestimates its significance, leaving you bored and starved for meaning. In the press notes for the movie, the performance is explained as being a rebuke to a world that’s becoming less free and that the body is the last bastion of freedom. How this is represented by having 11 men dance, pretend to give birth, and wear white sheets on their heads—all in the nude, remember—is lost on me. It’s scattershot creativity, using something provocative like nudity to lazily attract attention. Once you have that attention, then meaning is retroactively applied. It’s the oldest trick in the artbook. And isn’t the body the single most confining, dictatorial aspect of our entire being? Between it and the mind, I’d say one is clearly more liberating than the other.
The performance is a wash, but surely the documentary must add some new layer or comment. Unfortunately, that never happens. Throughout the process of putting the interpretive dance together, nothing happens that warrants your attention. When the dancers question Smits on the meaning of their work, and he answers, they nod their heads like they understand, so no conflict ever arises. When the dancers are on break, they have menials chats or swing their dicks around for fun. I kept waiting for the film to turn the corner and reveal its purpose, but it never came. It seems like those involved in the performance and the movie had an impulse to create something, then went full steam ahead without any real ideas.
If you’re into Yoko Ono art exhibits and wearing scarves in the summer, maybe Bare will do something for you. Don’t get me wrong. I think literal storytelling is largely unexciting, but so is the storytelling on the other side of the spectrum, where vagueness masks the lack of ingenuity.
"…a rebuke to a world that’s becoming less free, and that the body is the last bastion of freedom."