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Nude Tuesday

"utterly delightful... a hilarious, rip-snorting comedy"

★★★★★ - GUARDIAN 

- This New Zealand orgy comedy told in gibberish is delightful - 

Hilariously subtitled by comedian Julia Davis, this film sees an unhappy couple go to a horny guru – played by Jemaine Clement – to fix their marriage.

The titular festivities of Nude Tuesday don’t arrive until its last 20 minutes. By then, the bouillabaisse of bodies – lumpy, fleshy, knobbly – comes as no surprise after all we have witnessed: an orgy of new-age mysticism and unbridled pleasure. And a literal orgy.

This rip-snorting comedy from the New Zealand director Armagan Ballantyne situates itself on Zǿbftąņ, a fictional island hovering somewhere in the wild blue yonder of the Pacific. Ballantyne wastes no time hurtling us into the stultifying marriage of Bruno (Damon Herriman) and Laura (The Breaker Upperers’ Jackie van Beek, doubling as screenwriter), whose subtle barbs and constant bickering are conducted entirely in … gibberish.

In the pantheon of invented languages, there have been many of studied, intricate beauty: Elvish, Klingon, Na’vi. Nude Tuesday’s language is not one of them. It is lewd and crude, landing somewhere between a bad ABBA impression and backpackers at Oktoberfest. It’s as though an alien learnt Swedish entirely through Ikea’s most misjudged product names – and it is utterly delightful.

In tongue-twisting fricatives and nasal grunts, Herriman and Van Beek communicate perfectly the existential dread of middle-class life. Laura is a cog in the corporate machine who, in a mad dash to retrieve her forgotten notes for a pitch, smashes the window of her car, then delivers her presentation with a gruesome, bloodied arm. Bruno is a bumbling dad who can’t get the simplest of tasks right, all his sublimated stress suddenly coming to the fore in a screaming match with a poor bloke at the grocery store.

It is Laura and Bruno’s anniversary, and they strap in for a joyless dinner with the in-laws, made all the more awkward by a surprise present to the unhappy couple: an all-inclusive retreat for two, deep in the wilderness, that promises long-lasting self-fulfilment – both metaphysical and just plain physical.

The dispirited duo are bundled off faster than they can say marriage counselling to their sanctum in the woods: Wonderla (or ẄØnÐĘULÄ, as it’s stylised).

Nude Tuesday was shot in New Zealand, and it shows: Wonderla is a pastoral fantasy of log cabins and verdant fields, snow-capped mountaintops and rushing rivers. Except this isn’t so much a ski resort as a culty commune where debauchery reigns. Wonderla’s residents are mostly yogi types, dreadlocked, ponchoed and polyamorous in the same way student colleges are, which is to say: mostly just horny.

So Bruno and Laura – stuffy and stiff – come to experience the ways of their free-wheeling, free-balling peers – stiffied and stuffed. By the time they settle into the tantric rhythms of their orgiastic oasis, we can already see how this film might end: with the once-sheltered couple stripping away traumas and undergarments to reveal something feral and innate within themselves, to excavate the identities they’ve lost to the churn of domesticity.

It’s a feat, then, that Herriman and Van Beek – alongside a sideshow of oddballs, including the Australian TikTok star Ian Zaro as a blustering but big-hearted foil to Bruno, and Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement as their fraudulent cult leader-cum-love guru called (of course) Bjorg – keep the foregone conclusion at bay, just long enough to indulge in a raft of slapstick antics. They cup each other’s crotches as grounding exercise. There is breathwork that sounds like climaxing and climaxing that sounds like breathwork. They flail about like apes, held by the gentle embrace of nature, returning to their primal forms – swinging appendages and all. Call it the power of the hog.

There are certainly notes of The Breaker Upperers – the 2018 comedy Van Beek wrote, directed and starred in – in Nude Tuesday; both have a certain emotional agility, with the latter ping-ponging between slapstick farce and devastating catharsis without letting any moment percolate too long, lest it descend into schmaltz. And there are whiffs of Lorde’s Solar Power, The White Lotus and the folk horror Midsommar here too, infused into the film’s broad satire of the wellness industry.

But Nude Tuesday also wields a silent weapon: its subtitles, written completely independently in post-production by the British comedian Julia Davis. The cast’s performances may transcend language but the subtitles inject an omniscient – and hilarious – presence in the work, full of gleeful schadenfreude at its characters’ shortcomings (and short comings). Davis’s writing lets the film get away with its feast of anatomical jokes, which would quickly wear out were they delivered in English. And when, at last, the din quiets and we see the anatomy in all its bare-faced glory, we might just feel tempted to join this clan of naturists and throw all caution and clothing to the wind. Might.


Nude Tuesday is now playing at Light House Cuba!


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