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Docurama presents
Naked States (2000)

“You wanna pose nude with like a hundred other people?"
- Spencer Tunick

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: January 16, 2003

Stars: Spencer Tunick
Other Stars: Krissy Bowler, Ron Kuby, Fraya Berg, David Silver, Tanysha Marbury, Dan Spears, Deborah Berman, Ken Q. Fine, Reg Bowes, others
Director: Arlene Donnelly

MPAA Rating: R for (language and extensive nudity)
Run Time: 01h:39m:37s
Release Date: July 30, 2002
UPC: 767685949139
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ AA-B- C+

DVD Review

6:02 am. Times Square. Over 100 people remove their clothes and lie down the center of this famously busy street. The film starts with Spencer Tunick's most notorious photo shoot and his subsequent arrest. Tunick wins this case—and all others brought against him—based on his First Amendment rights. This photographer knows how to get attention, but is that what's he's about?

Filmmaker Arlene Donnelly and crew set off with Tunick and his crew on his 48 state quest to photograph nudes that will represent his vision, from single figure images to large, flowing masses of disrobed humanity. Documenting his geographical journey over the course of five months, Donnelly keeps up the pace for most of the film's running time. She succeeds in disclosing Tunick's process, from rounding up models to the actual shoots.

This is the filmmaker's first time out and it shows. One way is through dirty lenses, glaring sun spots and the boom appearing in the image. Conversely, Donnelly uses purposely distressed film contrasted with a video clarity, which keeps things visually interesting, and knows how to edit talking heads to a minimum.

"He's been arrested five times for stunts like this..." - "1010" WIN reporter

Just what is Tunick's vision? This is arguable, even after viewing this film. Along for the ride is girlfriend Krissy Bowler, and she seems to be the one who reins in his focus. On the first leg of their trip, Krissy asks Spencer the hard questions. He wakes her up with the morning's newspaper and a lit sparkler, and her reaction is, "I don't know why it's celebratory to get in the paper." Their relationship strains on the road as the trip progresses; when they finally part company out west, a significant aspect of the artist's conscience seems to go with her.

Are these merely elaborate stunts? Tunick surely seeks fame and acceptance—and publicity. Early in the film he discusses his frustration over attempts to contact the most respected art magazines, which go unanswered; near the end, after his first major exhibition, he speaks confidently about his "legacy."

One of Tunick's model pick-up lines is about "liberation." Unlike most people, this reviewer has years of experience with public nudity, both as an artist and a model. For most people, shedding their clothes at all, let alone in public, is difficult. There is indeed something liberating in doing it, because in reality, this is when one becomes most anonymous. Tunick, however, does not convince that he is sincere when he delivers these lines; he has a job to do, an image to compose, a shockwave to create.

Perhaps the best moments here come from the everyday people Tunick meets and chats up to be models. In Fargo, he approaches a young woman in a bookstore. The camera crew follows her to capture her subsequent conversation with friends, who bring up common suspicions about the risks of nudity, unknown photographers, and the line between pornography and art. Models Tanysha Marbury and Deborah Berman candidly discuss their experiences as "transforming." In their case, the photographer's subjects take away something more than he or his audience ever will.

At Burning Man, the annual festival held in the high desert in northeastern Nevada, Tunick tries to corral 500 people and attracts about 180. He missteps slightly from his goal in New Jersey, where he believes he'll hit the mother lode of human flesh with the Tri-State Naturists, but these people are pros: comfortable in their public nudity, he loses control of the shoot.

Up in Maine, it's a different story. On the site of the former Loring Air Force Base, an estimated 60,000 Phish fans are gathering for the weekend. How many lay down for Tunick? Enough to make him happy, an inspiring and remarkable feat.

"Being naked is just a wonderful experience. I highly recommend it to everyone. They should all just run out of their houses immediately and be naked. You don't have to have people watching you. Just go out at night sometime, walk around the yard, see how good it feels." - Reg Bowes

The film closes with Tunick's exhibition at Studio I-20 in New York, where a few of his models show up and find they are more flustered seeing themselves on display than they were during their al fresco shoots. At 32, the photographer achieves his dream—the cover of New York Arts Magazine.

[Note: The actual running time is almost 20 minutes more than stated on the back cover.]

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Docurama provides a winning full-screen image here. Any flaws appear to be in the low-budget source and most irregularities are the result of purposeful stylization. No noticeable traces of the digital process were noted.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a somewhat uneven due to the nature of the conditions of the recording, which occurs mostly at outdoor locations and inside a van traveling at highway speeds. What amazes is how several rowdy crowds fall silent when Tunick begins to shoot.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues
Cast and Crew Biographies
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Speaking in Strings, Fastpitch, Todd MacFarlane: The Devil You Know, Sophie B. Hawkins: The Cream Will Rise, Sound and Fury, Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back, Regret to Inform, The Dancemaker
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Artist's Photography
  2. Additional short film
Extras Review: A short film also by Arlene Donelly, Strawberry Fields (14m:25s), documents another Tunick photo shoot at two New York City locations, Strawberry Fields in Central Park and the sidewalk in front of the Dakota, in tribute to John Lennon.

Docurama provides 12 chapter stops and biographies for filmmaker Donnelly and Tunick, and a gallery containing 10 photos that are presented half-screen size, too small to fully appreciate.

Additional menu choices include information on Docurama itself and a nice catalog that includes trailers for Speaking in Strings, Fastpitch, Todd MacFarlane: The Devil You Know, Sophie B. Hawkins: The Cream Will Rise, Sound and Fury, Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back, Regret to Inform and The Dancemaker.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

"It was like I am free to be me and I like that a lot." - Tanysha Marbury

As an advocate of the inherent beauty of the human form no matter what the shape or size, I truly enjoyed this documentary, particularly the experiences shared by the rookies who bared all for the sake of art. Of interest to anyone curious about the creative process or the body human on a mass scale.


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