Under The Skin

with one comment

Ok, I went to see this at the Prince Charles so it’s at the end of it’s distribution run.  Which means everyone that wants to has seen it, surely?  No? Ok, I’ll try an avoid spoilers.  But, if you want to know nothing about this look away now.  I’ll keep it to what I already knew before going to see it.  And, will try an not let anything else slip*.

Scarlett Johansson is some sort of entity/alien driving round Glasgow in a white van, picking up blokes for nefarious purposes. She is magnificent.  Her performance switches perfectly between dangerously alluring (and, oh, she is) and, cold and, well, alien.

Director Jonathan Glazer builds one of the most unsettling atmospheres I’ve experienced in the cinema in quite some time.  Blending the bleak Scottish winter (urban and otherwise) with his weird shiny other-worldly elements.  Not only does he have the excellent central performance to work with, but there is also an interesting soundtrack (from Mica Levi) and and all round imposing soundscape throughout.  Quite an achievement.

Is that enough?  You know that way that when The Man Who Fell To Earth (which this owes a nod to, atmospherically not just the plot) drops down a gear and starts to fall apart and get weird? It carries it off because of the absolute genius of the casting as Thomas Newton.  This doesn’t happen here.  Which is to the films credit here: Casting a Hollywood a-lister has only ensured a wider audience, there is nothing in there relying on that.  But, as we move to the last act of the tale here, the lack of exposition (usually a killer) leaves you with more questions than answers. What was that bit meant to symbolise? Why has such-and-such happened?  I’m not really one for being spoon-fed, but although I followed the ‘action’ I’m still wondering why most of it happened.  To the extent that I’ve got more and more annoyed about the movie in the day since seeing it.  Of course, that also means I’ve been pretty much thinking about it since then, too. Oh, conflicted. (Which, right this minute, is a good thing.  Ask me again in an hour.)

A lot has been made of the use of guerrilla camera work in the film.  There have been suggestions that some of the scenes are just ScarJo rolling up on unsuspecting weegies, and tempt them into her van.  I’ calling bullshit on that.  There may be some moments of her leaning out the window that are genuine, but that’s it. If you’ve seen any of Impractical Jokers (the original US version is superior) or the recent trend in horror towards candid camera style viral stunts you’ll have some idea of where we’re at with hidden cameras.  This stuff is far too sophisticated. Besides, the dialogue ring genuine to me.  (Maybe I’ve just been away too long.)

*Of course, there’s not actually anything else to really let slip.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

06 April 2014 at 2:39 am

Posted in Film

One Response

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  1. […] any other year Frank or Calvary or The Wind Rises or even Under The Skin could well have been my favourite film. Even a sub-par Coen Brothers offering (which I find myself […]

    2014 |

    01 January 2015 at 12:34 am


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