Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The voluptuous alien seductress leads unsuspecting men into her otherworldly lair. Naked, they stroll across a reflective black surface in a pitch black room toward her. They begin to sink into a velvety darkness beneath them to be forever trapped and eventually killed, their bodies mined for resources. Images such as these, which are so striking, are at the center of Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin," which represents powerful and visionary storytelling from a singular artist (who helmed "Birth" and "Sexy Beast"), that is endlessly confounding but never frustrating. The film is sublime, an intoxicating mix of sci-fi elements wrapped in a horror atmosphere where nothing is clear; it's a narrative puzzle that unravels in mystery and beauty.

This is the other Scarlett Johansson fare that came out last weekend, the one that's not "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Her casting is inspired, she astonishes and is extraordinarily brave in the sometimes wordless role, and I don't say brave just because of her full frontal nudity. It's easily her best (onscreen) performance in a decade, save for "Her." She plays a creature not of this earth but cloaked in the skin of a beautiful woman, silently cruising the streets of Scotland in a big white van, looking for prey. What's most fascinating here is the way the film was shot: guerilla style, with many of the Scottish men not realizing they were speaking to a well-known American actress.

Things take a turn in the second act when Johansson's creation becomes aware of herself, the form she has taken and most notably her body, which has a power over men she doesn't even quite grasp. How is it possible these men so willingly join her to an unknown location? There's a great moment where, becoming fully conscious of what the men really want, she scrambles to the edge of the bed, grabs hold of a lamp and bends over to examine up herself.

"Under the Skin," fueled by a brain-searing score from Mica Levi, transforms into a meditation on sexuality, gender norms, the fine line between lust and danger and, finally, the nature of humanity, what it means to be non-alien, of this world and of our skin. Don't be shied away from evocative experimental cinema. This one is brilliant.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful film with incredible music by Mica Levi. I read that she created it to mirror the feelings of Scarlett Johansson. I thought that the change in pace really gave the movie the added atmosphere, and punch, because it showed her vulnerability and provoked a response from the audience.