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A Skin so Soft
by Becky Tan

Denis Côté, Canada

Normally, film festivals are not the place to see fun, light-hearted films. This year the Filmfest Hamburg proved to be an exception with many films to make you smile such as For your own good, Patti Cake$, Solitaire, or Voll verschleiert. And then there was A Skin So Soft. French-Canadian director Denis Côté visits six men in their fitness studios and at home who train professionally as body builders. At first glance Jean-Francois, Ronald, Alexis, Cédric, Benoit and Maxim are a bit over the top with their tight training schedules, over-developed muscles, and strict diets. There is little dialogue and less music but much grunting as the barbells go up. Some are bald, some have a beard, but otherwise, body hair is missing, especially on those men who compete in championships. My first impression was: these guys are fanatics, with no respect or feeling for the real world. Gradually, we are allowed into their homes; we meet their families and partners (two wives are also into body-building) and their “real” jobs, which they also faithfully perform. Suddenly these over-stuffed, tattooed freaks are real people with real ideas and goals and even other passions besides body-building. I left the cinema feeling that they were my friends, an about-face after only 90 minutes of viewing.