It’s barely 20 seconds long, but that’s more than enough time for the shot of a completely naked woman in front of a rectangular mirror to startle a society unaccustomed to seeing itself reflected without understatement on big screen. She does not move, she does not speak. She takes off her bathrobe and examines with a serene smile: the less smooth breasts, the gradual cellulite, the rounded belly, the hanging skin… Emma Thompson, the protagonist, then shows herself without aesthetic retouching or digital filters at home. 62 years old, trying to accept herself and avoid judgments on a body already far from the cinematographic canon. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” admits the actress. The scene ends Good luck, Big Leo., one of the surprises of the year on the indie circuit and which, after sweeping several festivals, is now coming to our screens. The British actress gives life to a retired teacher who, after the death of her husband, hires a young man who prostitutes himself to achieve the sexual fulfillment denied in his marriage and to discover his own body. A tragi-comedy that, deliberately or not, has sparked a contentious debate over why mature nudity remains an unattainable taboo in fiction.
“Women have been brainwashed into hating our bodies. That’s a fact”, insured Thompson, double Oscar winner, during the press conference for the presentation of the film at the last Berlin festival. The video of her plea quickly went viral, referring to the physical demands society places on women and the widespread “brainwashing” it entails: “Everything around us reminds us of how imperfect we are: everything is wrong with us. Everything is wrong and you have to show yourself in a certain way. The specialized press did not hesitate to call Emma Thompson’s audacity “brave” – already a candidate to lead the imminent awards season.
Although hopeless, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the nude of a woman over 60 continues to make headlines in mid-2022. The stigma of female aging is a constant in an industry that deliberately ignores actresses as they age. According to a study by the Screen Actors Guild of America published in 2019, only actresses over the age of 40 taken into account 25.4% of the roles with dialogues and there are dozens of stars who have denounced how, when they reached this age, they lost their jobs for “being too old” or were directly offered roles of the protagonist’s grandmother. In the case of the mature nude, the repulsion has reached the point of creating a subgenre of terror, the hagsploitation, which transforms the old woman’s body into a terrifying and grotesque monster, decrepit and the embodiment of death. of the foundation What happened to Baby Jane? with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, the genre has seen a resurgence in recent years with examples such as Time by M. Night Shyamalan, X from Ti West or Grandmother from Paco Plaza. Until Julie, the protagonist of the famous the worst person in the worldstars of a psychedelic journey in which she sees herself in the naked body of an older woman to denounce the social pressure suffered by young women in their twenties without a fixed family or a job.
While the film industry has historically hypersexualized the canonical, lush figures of its most attractive actresses, infesting its gratuitous nude films, there are very few occasions when bodies over 40, imperfect according to traditional canons or without cosmetic alterations, were shown to be sexually desirable. Last year, Kate Winslet made headlines around the world for simply refusing to have her love handles go up during a sex scene on the show. Easttown Mare and demanding that their crow’s feet appear on promotional posters. Emma Thompson herself, who for decades lost roles “in which people strip because they’re not thin enough,” encourages rebellion against self-imposed beauty canons: “If you want the world to change, and you want the iconography of the female body to change, then you better be part of the change.”
In other cases, maturity was just the spur needed to dare to appear naked for the first time on the big screen. This was the case of Diane Keaton, who appeared without clothes at 57 in the comedy When you least expect it. “Your ideas about your own body completely change as you get older. Now I only see it as a body, not as some precious possession that I have to hide,” he claimed in Weekly entertainment. Kathy Bates did it with 53 in About SchmidtCharlotte Rampling at 62 The listHelen Mirren at 58 calendar girls and Tilda Swinton (only lovers survive) and Kim Cattrall (sex in new york) also appeared nude at over 50. Before good luck big lionAnne Reid, 68, has already shocked British society by having an intimate relationship with a Daniel Craig, who was twice her age, in the 2003 film the mother. Reid recounted how, the night before the scene was filmed, he got drunk in his apartment before undressing in front of the mirror, collapsing under the pressure of “having to show that” on camera. “It was scary, but I managed to overcome the situation”, concluded Reid, who ended up garnering a long string of awards and nominations. Nearly two decades later, the tumult is repeated with Emma Thompson.