Wednesday, July 30, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs: Under the Skin

2013, Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) -- download

Gawddammit, where is Roger Ebert when I need him to write intelligently about something that both intrigued and mystified me. He had an ability to break through the BS of conceptual, arty movies and see the wonder of filmmaking behind them.  This is the second of Glazer's movie since 2000's Sexy Beast. What has he been doing? How has he been keeping himself? Will this be his return? How did he get Scarlett Johannson to play this unglamorous yet viscerally attractive alien woman? Can you wade past the pretense of its visual style and utter lack of conventional storytelling and find something under? Roger would have helped me sort this out.

Alas, it is left to me. Scarlett is an alien; this much we should know from the talk about the movie, or gather very quickly when she ... absorbs her first victim. Or we can assume she is an average serial killer stalking the Scottish countryside in a white panel van (!!!), seducing any male she finds very very alone. Our brief windows into her alien-ness are very Kubrick, all directed lights and all-white or all-black rooms, where the victims sink, faster and faster depending on the level of their lust. The victims are the stereotypes of the Scottish youth, all big ears and outrageous sports jerseys and incomprehensible accents. But one, a young man with neurofibromatosis (often called elephant man's disease), touches her like none of the others, and she releases him. Thus begins her descent towards humanity.

This is an almost impenetrable film. It is slow, stylish, has little dialogue and even less story. Yes, yes, it has full frontal Scarlett but not in any alluring manner, her nakedness almost being clinical, full of genuine discomfort. Some would just be happy to see her nude, while the Internet whined about her being "fat", I was just absorbed in her alien character, uncomfortable for her as she looked at her human body, as if for the first time. The movie is about her performance, not all choreographed and edited like her usual flicks. The movie is about... about... I am not sure.  And yet, I didn't nod off. I was enthralled and not bored until it ended, abruptly with no explanation. Just, an end.