Nana

Jean Renoir, France, 1926, Isis

Comment

From the beginnings of cinema, film-makers wondered about nudity: can it be shown or does it have to be hidden? What can we show the spectator, what must be hidden? Obviously the answer depended on the times, censorship rules, society history.

In the sequence, Renoir plays with idea of suggesting a nudity that is actually never shown. To do so, he first uses maskings, with humour: anything that can block between the naked actress and the camera. First, it’s the edge of the bathtub which comes to hide Nana’s nakedness when she is still in the water. Then, as she stands up, it’s the maid who blocks the view between the actress’s naked body and the camera with a large towel.

Renoir then uses close-up. When Nana drops her towel down, the spectator knows she is naked but the image and the scale, which only allow to see her feet and the bottom of her legs, make us imagine what cannot be seen. The film-maker only reframes her from head to toes when she has put her dress on.