by: Matt Fagerholm
With Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper comedy, Magic Mike, opening June 29 (with out actor Matt Bomer), lets take a look at ten of cinema’s most memorable stripteases. These scenes do far more than just titillate–they expose the characters’ very souls.
10. Gwen Welles in Nashville (1975)
Robert Altman’s microcosm of America features a striptease number that literally stops the show. After would-be singer Sueleen (Welles) is booed off the stage, she’s ordered to strip in the middle of a room filled with hooting and hollering men. As each article of clothing is thrown on the floor, her dreams of integrity fall beside them.
9. Cybill Shepherd in The Last Picture Show (1971)
Director Peter Bogdanovich’s infatuation with 21-year-old model Shepherd (Phyllis Kroll on TV’s The L Word) was readily apparent throughout this film. As teenage temptress Jacy, Shepherd sports confidence even as she strips in a room full of her nude peers, while standing atop a diving board. Yet a stubborn bra strap causes Jacy to fall on the board, allowing laughter to break through the hormonally charged silence.
8. Nicholas Hoult in A Single Man (2009)
After an impromptu night of swimming, a bold young man (Hoult from About a Boy) decides to seduce his teacher (Colin Firth). Director Tom Ford avoids full frontal nudity, opting to focus on the characters’ expressions. He does, however, provide a lingering look at Hoult’s tanned backside as he takes off his underwear and turns to face Firth. Ford holds the moment long enough for audience’s imaginations to run wild.
7. Kate Winslet in Titanic (1997)
Forbidden desire is utterly irresistible to young smitten hearts. James Cameron’s blockbuster was massively popular not just because of its special effects, but because of its notoriously steamy scene where Rose (Winslet) disrobes before her star-crossed lover and allows his eyes to caress her flesh as he draws her portrait. The partial nudity pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating as far as it can go.
6. Joe Swanberg in “Young American Bodies” (First Season, Episode 2, 2006)
Indie filmmaker Swanberg has famously allowed his actors to let everything hang out. Like the Girls series creator Lena Dunham, Swanberg aims to normalize sexuality for American audiences by photographing bodies that contrast with the perfectly toned supermodels that populate magazine spreads. The abundance of nudity in his work aptly reflects young people’s hyper-awareness of their sexual organs. An early scene from his “Young American Bodies” web series captures the grogginess of an early morning ritual. Ben (Swanberg) weighs himself in the pale light of his bathroom while sporting a dissatisfied reaction. He swiftly removes his boxers, revealing his half-aroused penis. The camera cuts to a wider angle of Ben from the waist down, as he casually rubs his crotch.
5. Eva Green and Michael Pitt in The Dreamers (2003)
Just as Swanberg draws provocative parallels between sex and cinema, Bernardo Bertolucci’s claustrophobic drama links the sexual escapades of three young people with their fixation on film. Whereas Isabelle (Green) effortlessly performs her striptease, Matthew’s (Pitt’s) clothes must be taken off by force. Theo (Louis Garrel who played bisexual in Love Songs) holds Matthew down as Isabelle removes his underwear. Instead of viewing the nudity from a distance, Bertolucci pulls in for an arresting close-up that reveals the photograph of Isabelle that Matthew kept tucked between his penis and scrotum.
4. Iliana Zabeth in House of Tolerance (2011)
The coldest, most clinical scene on this list takes place in a French brothel, as a young woman, Pauline (Zabeth), is forced to strip in front of a potential employer. Her astonishingly voluptuous, Renoiresque features are a rebuke to America’s misinformed belief that skinny equals beauty. The sunlight streaming through a nearby window makes it appear as if Pauline is undressing in front of a spotlight, and director Bertrand Bonello’s unwavering gaze results in a quiet, protracted scene of overwhelmingly erotic power.
3. Pierre Perrier in American Translation (2011)
Perrier elevated Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr’s soft-core drama by performing his role with wild abandon. He parades his body before his seated, wide-eyed girlfriend, while the handheld cinematography captures the intoxicating adrenaline of each moment. He drops his pants to reveal his clinging underwear, before proceeding to rub his crotch against her leg. The pulsating rhythms of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Showdown” reach their fever pitch as Perrier kicks off his underwear, revealing his penis at half-mast. The next time we see his penis, it is fully erect, as will be the penises of every gay, bisexual and bicurious man who happens to see it.
2. Thora Birch in American Beauty (1999)
The adolescent euphoria of forbidden desire that permeates Titanic is fully realized in this beautiful scene from Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning film. After falling for the sensitive neighbor next door, Jane (Birch) disrobes before the penetrating gaze of his camera lens. After struggling with feelings of inadequacy in regards to her body, Jane throws caution to the wind by removing her bra, exposing a radiant pair of breasts that are refreshingly human in their unequal size. Yet her admirer is more interested in the expression of vulnerable passion erupting on her face.
1. David Kross in The Reader (2008)
The first third of Stephen Daldry’s problematic drama is an exhilarating portrait of a young man’s sexual awakening, as well as the most erotic example of the male-on-male gaze in recent memory. The ill-fated affair between a 36-year-old woman, Hanna (Kate Winslet) and a 15-year-old boy, Michael (Kross) is bookended by scenes set around a bathtub. Prior to their first sexual encounter, Michael is naturally shy when revealing his penis. As he strips down for a bath, Daldry allows fragments of Michael’s clumsily concealed genitalia to be made visible. The playfulness of this scene contrasts with the despair of the couple’s final moments together. As Hanna scrubs his body, Michael stands completely uninhibited. Daldry finally cuts to a full-frontal shot of Michael’s adult-sized penis, and the nudity registers as deeply tragic. It illustrates how Michael gave every inch of himself to a relationship that was ultimately doomed and will continue to haunt his life. While his mind will attempt to suppress the memories of Hanna, Michael’s heart — and his penis — will long for her.
Note: This piece was originally published on Go Over the Rainbow and was featured with permission. You can find the original here.
Matt Fagerholm is a staff writer at HollywoodChicago.com and the Skokie Patch. He has also been a contributor to Time Out Chicago, Film Monthly, Screen Magazine, REEL Chicago and The Onion A.V. Club’s Decider website.