Under the Skin (2014) (R)
Just from its title "Under the Skin" gives its movie many layers, pun intended. The film is so stretching, so confusing, and so inexplicably unsettling that for most of it you feel cocooned in the world itself. For this is no ordinary earth we see in "Under the Skin" and director Jonathan Glazer is sure to prove just that. He makes commentary on humanity and inhumanity and his film resembles a plethora of great directors including Kubrick, Roeg, Lynch, and Cronenberg; yet it is enough of itself to escape all those comparisons and be judged by itself.
The movie is a slow one, with very little action (with the exception of one or two scenes) and much implied.
An unnamed woman (Scarlett Johansson) has been walking the streets and driving the roads. The first time that we see her, she's peeling the clothes off of a dead woman and wearing them. She keeps this outfit until she can get to a mall and buy her own clothes, which remain in place for the rest of the movie, her only outfit. With bright red lipstick and tight fitting clothes, the woman starts driving, searching for men. We understand the predatory nature of these drives from the first moment because once she gets close to grabbing one (figuratively) we start to hear the dissonance from the sound editing. Random clicks and whirls and beeps and synthesizer noises berate the viewer, it's like R2-D2 is having a meltdown; but it completely works.
The indie filmmaking aspect of the movie is so in tune with the "science fiction" nature of it that it becomes its own feeling...or as Matt Zoeler Seitz calls it "an experience".
There is the alien nature of the movie, and the "not alien". It's human, it's unfortunate, and it's uncomfortable, but it's true and beautiful and sexual.
"Under the Skin" seems more than anything else like a commentary on sexual aggression, which can be seen with the way that the woman cruising the streets for man flesh. But as far as sex scenes go, for "Under the Skin" is very and sometimes violently sexual, these are the most peculiar I've seen in years. They are unforgettable and, yeah, a little claustrophobic on top of the bizarre sound editing.
The movie has almost no dialogue and the scenes that don't involve talking are often the most important in terms of narrative development. Curious, because the audience demands some sort of explanation and none is given.
The word "skin" feels like it should, confusing and metaphorical.
Here we see why Scarlett Johansson has become one of the more prominent actresses of recent years. She is amazing in a role that demands so much from so little. Her expressions seem both too empathetic and too inhuman...it's pretty amazing and wholly unassuming.
Its fault lie with its timing, which can sometimes feel boring. Long chunks of time are used for seemingly nothing, just watching ScarJo walk around and be mysterious.
Above all its complexities and the lack of narrative structure, "Under the Skin" is physically haunting.
It does creep beneath the skin.
Posted by Micah Jones