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  Body, The In The Flesh
Year: 1971
Director: Roy Battersby
Stars: Frank Finlay, Vanessa Redgrave, Various
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is the story of the human body from conception to death, charting the path it will take through life with the help of volunteers who will relate their experiences and demonstrate the capabilities of their corporeal form accompanied by some of the most advanced camera technology that 1970 would provide. Making allusions to the common British body being much like the landscape of that island nation, with the imagery to illustrate that, the visuals travel over the shapes of the various parts of the figures, until it is time to enter them and take a look at how the organs within operate, seeing what can happen beneath the skin...

The director of this film Roy Battersby went on not to experimental works as this might indicate but as a respected helmer of television drama; another interesting name behind the camera was Tony Garnett, who had collaborated on a few of Ken Loach's most impressive efforts, including Kes, as well as a long association with television himself, but all that counted for naught once the cultists took a look at the names responsible for the music. One of them was Ron Geesin, a composer of many a well-regarded, if low profile work, but the other was a certain Roger Waters, just at the point when he was really making his mark on his band Pink Floyd.

So it was the songs on the soundtrack which were really the objects of desire rather than the film itself, and they were much as you would expect with earnest lyrics and hippy-flavoured rock, some of it almost folky popping up to comment on the scenes we were presented with. Therefore since Waters made no appearance in the documentary itself other than his singing voice, it was the soundtrack album which was the real collector's item, though those who were intrigued enough to delve a little deeper and investigate the source would have been rewarded with an idiosyncratic look at its subject in much the way a television documentary of the time might, if they could risk depicting all that nudity.

There was an agenda here to link this in with the current state of British society and how that affected its citizens' bodies, with images of babies being born mixed with the daily grind in a factory, and a little light modern history when the collection of volunteers Battersby recruited to variously strip off and/or perform tasks were interviewed. Some of that oral document was mundane, with even a debate about how many clothes they should take off and whether the film's artistic merit was enough to go naked before the cameras, while some was more serious as one old geezer recalled losing his five-year-old son because the child scratched at his chicken pox and it turned septic, or one young woman told the assembled what it was like to go blind aged twenty.

Although there was a lengthy sequence where a couple had sex which Battersby and his editor insisted on returning to, this was neither lecherous nor dispassionate, it was more trying to make the viewer self-conscious, but not in an embarrassed way. It was leaving you conscious of the workings of your anatomy that you might otherwise take for granted, with major organs getting a mention accompanied by footage where a tiny camera was inserted into someone and followed such things as blood or the digestive system (including a shot of the inside of a penis as it urinates). But the humanity was never out of sight, so we got to hear the thoughts of a terminally ill woman who died sixteen days after the interview, ruminating that she had not even told her best friends she was not long for this world. Although there was narration - by stars Frank Finlay and Vanessa Redgrave - there was not much of a sense of an overarching story to The Body, more an assembly of pertinent sequences with a spirit of the times attitude, and in that way fairly absorbing.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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