‘Body Parts’ covers a lot in viewing movie sex scenes from women’s perspective

Jane Fonda, Rosanna Arquette and other stars contribute to insightful and comprehensive documentary.

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Jane Fonda works with director Roger Vadim during the making of “Barbarella” in 1970. In “Body Parts,” she recalls being deceived about the film’s nudity by Vadim, then her husband.

Paramount Pictures

Rosanna Arquette recounts how she felt pressured to take off her top for director Blake Edwards during the filming of “S.O.B.” in 1981, when she was just 19 years old.

“I just remembered everybody waiting for me … and I did it,” says Arquette. “I felt very humiliated and very sad about it. But [in] those days ... it was a completely different consciousness. You were expected to do these things.”

This is just one of the resonant moments in Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s insightful, comprehensive and thought-provoking documentary “Body Parts,” which covers a wide spectrum of topics over a fast-paced 86-minute running time, from a historic look at how women have been portrayed in the movies to interviews with intimacy coordinators and body doubles to a discussion of representations of Black and queer sexuality to actors from Arquette to Jane Fonda to Mishel Prada to Rose McGowan to Michelle Krusiec talking about the process of filming intimate scenes. It’s a timely, valuable work.

‘Body Parts’

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Shout! Studios and Level Forward present a documentary directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan. No MPAA rating. Running time: 86 minutes. Available Friday on demand.

With film scholars such as Linda Williams providing crucial context, “Body Parts” reminds us that in the 1920s and 1930s, about half the screenwriters in Hollywood were female, and women were often portrayed as strong, independent figures. “It was the sexiest time for movies,” says Fonda. “Bette Davis, Mae West, Garbo … they were dangerous women.”

After the Hollywood Production Code was introduced in 1934, there were drastic changes, and overt displays of sexuality virtually vanished until the late 1960s. These days, there’s far more sex on TV than in the movies — 22 of the 25 top-grossing films of 2022 were rated PG or PG-13, and the three R-rated films were in the horror genre — and while it’s been a long time coming, Hollywood has become increasingly sensitive to the portrayal of women and the handling of intimate scenes in the post-#MeToo era.

Actress Emily Meade talks of feeling uncomfortable with certain sex scenes on the HBO series “The Deuce,” and showrunner David Simon recalls, “Emily basically said, ‘We can do this better,’ then it was our job to listen.”

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Emily Meade, pictured at a 2017 premiere of her “The Deuce,” says she raised concerns about her sex scenes in the HBO series.

Andrew Toth/Getty Images

Says Meade: “The best thing I could come up with is there should be a person … whose sole job is to facilitate, protect and just be there for sex scenes. Like a stunt coordinator. … ‘The Deuce’ wound up being the first network television show to have an intimacy coordinator, and then HBO wound up being the first network to have networkwide intimacy coordinators used.”

Shelley Michelle, who was Julia Roberts’ body double in “Pretty Woman,” talks of the “cattle call” aspects of auditioning. Filmmakers such as Karyn Kusama, Joey Soloway and Angela Robinson talk about behind-the-scenes details such as nudity riders in contracts that outline exactly what an actor is willing to do onscreen.

Jane Fonda recounts how her then-husband, the director Roger Vadim, assured her the letters in the opening titles of “Barbarella” would cover certain body parts, only to learn that wasn’t the case. Visual effects editor Seven Najarian explains how he digitally removes blemishes and makes actors appear younger and slimmer and laments, “I feel like I’m part of the problem.”

Even though many of the segments are brief, Guevara-Flanagan does a remarkably thorough job in covering such a wide range of areas. The only complaint one might have about “Body Parts” is it easily could have been twice as long.

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