A Skin So Soft

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Canada (Québec) | 2017 | 94 minutes | Denis Cote

Quebecois filmmaker Denis Côté (Bestiaire) crafts an intimate portrait of six bulging, oiled, and sometimes tattooed bodybuilders who engage in grueling and obsessive daily routines of ritual workouts, extreme diets, weight analysis, and elaborate posing techniques in order to achieve perfectly sculpted physiques.

Bodybuilders spend every waking moment at the intersection of high art and modern science, chiseling themselves into living icons of Herculean strength through an exacting calculus of movement and meal prepping. In A Skin So Soft, documentarian Denis Cote follows six Quebecois strongmen in their grueling day-to-day routines as they pursue peak physical condition. In so doing, he eschews the focus on competitions and titles one might expect from such a premise. In fact, his subjects' quest for near-superhuman form is shown to be strikingly banal. Cote simply observes as each one strains himself in repetitive workout regimens and consumes carefully apportioned meals—often with little to no dialogue accompanying—and also lives out his daily life. Their carefully preened and smoothed-over bodies seem to take an outsized presence, and in many cases appear to clash with their personas and relationships; a particularly startling scene shows one of the bodybuilders suddenly shedding tears during breakfast over something he saw on his computer. Although the camera largely takes an observational angle, Cote also characteristically inserts dramatization at times to better illustrate reality, most prominently in the film's final act, where the subjects go on a retreat. Boldly taking on a mundane perspective, A Skin So Soft successfully keeps the monotonous grind engaging as it reveals oft-overshadowed humanity in bodybuilders.

Director Biography
Denis Côté is a Canadian independent and experimental filmmaker. His features include Our Private Lives (2007), All That She Wants (2008), and Curling. He was a also a film critic for Canadian radio and wrote for the magazine "ici" from 1995 to 2005 and was the Vice President of the Quebec Association of Film Critics.

Sponsored by Canadian Studies Center at UW, Consulate General of Canada, Quebec Government Office in LA, Boulart Bread

  • Original Language Title: Ta Peau Si Lisse
  • Director: Denis Cote
  • Principal Cast: Alexis Legare, Cedric Doyon, Jean-Francois Bouchard, Ronald Yang, Maxim Lemire
  • Premiere Status: Seattle
  • Country: Canada (Québec), Switzerland, France
  • Year: 2017
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Producer: Jeanne-Marie Poulain, Joelle Bertossa, Dounia Sichov, Denis Cote
  • Screenplay: Denis Cote
  • Cinematographers: Francois Messier Rheault
  • Editors: Nicolas Roy
  • Filmography: Boris Without Beatrice (2016); Joy of Man's Desiring (doc, 2014); Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (2013); Bestiaire (doc, 2012)
  • Language: French
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • International Sales: Films Boutique