A Kiwi comedy truly unlike anything ever seen or heard - in New Zealand and beyond - Nude Tuesday is a fearlessly uproarious film admirably committed to its own particular kind of strangeness.
Lead actor Jackie van Beek (co-writer, co-director and co-star – all with Madeleine Sami - of the last great Kiwi comedy, 2018's The Breaker Upperers) conceived the unique project with its director, Armagan Ballantyne (The Strength of Water). Set in a fictional country, the entire movie plays out in gibberish - all the actors spout vaguely Scandinavian-sounding words with English subtitles (written by stellar British comedian/actor Julia Davis) revealing what they're saying.
Van Beek stars as Laura, whose marriage to Bruno (Aussie journeyman actor Damon Herriman – who played Charles Manson in both Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood and the second season of Mindhunter) has seen better days. At a grim family dinner marking their wedding anniversary, Bruno's mother gifts them a trip to a relationship retreat at a rural lodge.
Although hesitant, they resolve to embrace the opportunity but struggle with the retreat's relentlessly horny guru Bjorg (Kiwi comedy royalty Jemaine Clement) and the expectation that they will disrobe on the titular day for a naked trek up a snow-capped mountain. The not-so-underlying tension in their marriage is forced to the fore as the couple steps way outside their comfort zone.
The ambitious language gambit is strangely successful – the utterances never feel entirely random, and there is a primal, almost childlike humour to be derived from the odd noises emanating from the actors' mouths. Juxtaposed with Davis' brash subtitles (which she wrote with no knowledge of the intended dialogue), it adds a whole layer of comedy to something that was already pretty funny.
The approach to nudity in the film is positively European in its casualness - there is a wide variety of body types on display, and no trace of titillation, or indeed Austin Powers-esque genital obstruction. This is full-frontal all the way, and the nudity-related humour is generated by the discomfort of a button-down suburban couple faced with such unrepentant naturism.
The entire cast (which includes a bunch of familiar Kiwi comedic performers in supporting roles) proves impressively game (everybody, and I mean everybody, gets nekkid), but Clement is perhaps best at speaking the gibberish, which is hilariously informed by his sonorous voice. And there is a pretty cool goat, too.
Van Beek, Ballantyne and their various collaborators demonstrate just how conformist so much cinematic comedy is - the lesson here being that blowing the doors of the existing norms of the genre can bear much comedic fruit. As entertaining as it is, it's just as inspirational.
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There are a lot of reasons to see this one-of-a-kind New Zealand comedy, but the main one is that it is very, very funny.
Cast: Jackie van Beek, Jemaine Clement, Damon Herriman
Director: Armagan Ballantyne
Running time: 100 mins
Rating: R16 (Sex scenes, offensive language, sexual references, nudity & drug use)
Verdict: A must-see comic oddity with unpredictable laughs.