Free the Nip­ple

Pasatiempo - - News - — Jen­nifer Levin

Free the Nip­ple, semi-satir­i­cal pro­pa­ganda film, not rated, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 1 chile

Free the Nip­ple was writ­ten and di­rected by Lina Esco, who plays this film’s pro­tag­o­nist, a twenty-some­thing jour­nal­ist named With, who lives in Brook­lyn. In real life, Esco got in­volved with an an­ti­cen­sor­ship move­ment to “de­crim­i­nal­ize women’s bod­ies,” and this is the movie she and her fel­low ac­tivists made about the cru­sade. In it, she wit­nesses a top­less run on Wall Street by women who wind up get­ting ar­rested, even though it’s been le­gal for women to go shirt­less in pub­lic in New York City since 1992, and then meets the run’s leader, Liv (Lola Kirke), a self-de­scribed so­cial rev­o­lu­tion­ary.

This earnest, mis­guided lit­tle film is a fine ex­am­ple of ex­actly the wrong way to use sto­ry­telling to fur­ther a po­lit­i­cal cause. It’s billed as satire, but what’s be­ing sat­i­rized is a mys­tery. The only tar­gets seem to be the women in the move­ment — the char­ac­ters we’re sup­posed to be root­ing for — who are in­ter­mit­tently re­vealed as self-right­eous, naive fools, but the movie takes it­self so se­ri­ously that the mo­ments of satire don’t make sense, and they cer­tainly don’t make the cause seem vi­tal. Worse yet, the di­a­logue is di­dac­tic and ex­pos­i­tory; most of the act­ing is un­com­fort­ably am­a­teur­ish; cringe-in­duc­ing im­pro­vised scenes are worse than the scripted por­tions; the sound­track is too loud and prom­i­nent; and huge swaths of time are wasted on silly, twee shots of the sub­way, of peo­ple danc­ing and do­ing im­promptu Pi­lates in a dirty squat in Red Hook, and of hair. The un­der-90-minute run­ning time feels in­ter­minable after the first 30.

Au­di­ence mem­bers in­ter­ested in the topic of pub­lic fe­male nu­dity will be dis­ap­pointed that the ideas be­hind the Free the Nip­ple move­ment aren’t dis­cussed in any depth un­til the film’s last five min­utes. The char­ac­ters don’t use the lan­guage of so­cial jus­tice or fem­i­nism, nor do they have a back­ground in the his­tory of cen­sor­ship. It seems im­pos­si­ble that th­ese women didn’t learn any of this in col­lege or that they don’t read blogs that dis­cuss th­ese is­sues. They are schooled in cen­sor­ship by a fifty-some­thing male jour­nal­ist (Zach Gre­nier) in a scene that smacks of ed­u­ca­tional films and that raises the ques­tion, Who is this movie for? Free the Nip­ple doesn’t tell a story well, nor does it in­doc­tri­nate well, un­less the tar­get au­di­ence is young enough to never have thought crit­i­cally about gen­der equal­ity or the rep­re­sen­ta­tions of women’s bod­ies we see ev­ery day in the me­dia.

Body block: women protest­ing on Wall Street

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