As a follow-up to her “Naked States,” helmer Donnelly Nelson tracks controversial photographer Spencer Tunick’s quest to photograph large numbers of naked people in public places on all seven continents. Responses, by citizens and officialdom, vary widely and often surprisingly from country to country, and a sustained sense of venturing into unknown territory keeps pic from foundering in repetition. Skedded to air on HBO’s “America Undercover,” docu’s unsalacious strengths — the artistic impact of the photographs and the communal, almost tribal nature of the shoots — should please even those viewers looking for more bodacious bods.
Tunick tries everything to attract sufficient quantities of subjects for his shoots, from approaching people on the street to complex Internet hookups. Astonishingly, France proves the most resistant to public displays of nudity, yielding a few artistically draped figures in front of a shop, a threatened arrest at the Louvre and one woman outstretched on a wall overlooking the Eiffel Tower, her middle finger raised in a universal gesture. In Montreal, people fill the Place des Arts with a sea of 2,000 naked bodies, while some 4,000 Melbournites form a nude pathway to the Yarra River in irregular waves. Even unseasonably frigid weather can’t deter London art enthusiasts from a waterfront shoot, the two young women who organized the event spontaneously throwing off their clothes and joining at the last moment.
Tunick’s explanations of his goals provide little insight. But interviews with those who agree to pose, either out of conviction or simply for the hell of it, throw light on the way people regard art, society and their own bodies.
Some of the most striking compositions come from lone nude models placed against defining landscapes, from a Russian man in a marble planter on an avenue in Moscow to Tunick’s girlfriend amid a crowd of penguins in Antarctica. A Russian man photographed lying down clad only in an astronaut’s helmet may point the way to pic’s only conceivable sequel — Nudes in Space.