After all, it's just a ride….

Under The Skin (2014) Reprise

skinIt has been with a delicious sense of contentment that I have observed the glowering praise that Under The Skin has accrued since its UK release last weekend, so I thought having seen the film again on Sunday it might be a worth posting a very brief précis now that the film has actually alighted on local shores. Second time round and the film retains its disturbing power, even when you know the storybeats it is still a deeply distinctive and distressing work, and my appreciation has only intensified for Johansson’s otherworldly performance, the intense and chittering score and Glazer’s sparsely brilliant and uncompromising manipulation of the form. Lots of reviewers have been taking more of a Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth flavour from the film rather than a David Lynch vibe, both positions are equally valid, but there does still seem to be some discontent with the movie which the three star reviews reference but fail to illuminate why – it’s quite frustrating. Still I’m assuming some of my esteemed colleagues are working from their intergalactic instincts which is a position I can sympathise with, sometimes a film just feels a little off and not quite there as a five-star masterpiece if that makes sense (no, probably doesn’t but anyway), and it’s really only subjective touches or moments which can overcome that creeping feeling that something might just be slightly amiss. For me its all about the atmosphere which the film and being given the space to breathe, of formulating your own backstories to motivations or lifecycles which a major strength, of frankly not being treated like a juvenile and walked through the story which a lot of SF material seems compelled to do these days. Some mild spoilers follow;

It’s really some of the mysteries the film leaves you with the space to speculate which I find more involving – who are the bikers and where are they from? Does the mere fact of Izzy’s time amongst us change her behaviour when she ‘rebels’ against her nature? What the fuck are those poor doomed blokes being harvested for anyway? It’s abstract and so much better, much richer and intellectually curious that way. Given the films now notorious production method it’s quite interesting to go back for a second orbit from a technical perspective, the hidden camera scenes are fairly obvious and quite easy to distinguish from the three professional actor encounters but you’ve still got to admire Johansson’s nerve and the achievement of such verisimilitude. Never one to miss a trick FilmFour scheduled a screening of Glazer’s first film Sexy Beast over the weekend which I also revisited, being fairly indifferent to the film the first time around it does yield some connections, some small moments of DNA which can be traced through his rather odd movies. He’s good on deployment of close-up’s, of timing and restraint with them too, and he also has a penchant for non-narrative specific mood moments, either executed by a dream or the characters lapsing into a state of imagination. Like a lot of music video piece graduates the visuals eclipse the narrative, there are many music video techniques deployed in Sexy Beast which are flashy but a little hollow, thank god he restrained himself for Skin with the more powerful moments residing in the qietly held shots, the moments of reflection which drive the narrative forward – Izzy calmly observing and possibly satisfied with the insects lurking at the fringes of our environment, as alien in their design and purpose as we are to her, the final image of vertical, silently drifting snow. Danny Leigh, a chap with whom I tend to see eye-to-eye on most movies has made the rather startling claim that he has had two formative experiences in his cinematic education, the first seeing Eraserhead at age 14, the second Under The Skin. I’m not sure I’d go that far but I think I know what distant nebula he is coming from, as this is a film which is the new standard for ‘serious’ SF to be triangulated against for the next few years. So finally here is Mark Cousins ‘riposte’ which is quite stunning, he loved the film by the way but as is his idiom he sought to point out another work which may have influenced Glazer, particularly that incredibly haunting and indifferent beach scene;

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