Avant-garde cinema ain’t for everyone.
I think and know that, and Jonathan Glazer – the director of Sexy Beast, Birth, and today’s Under the Skin – definitely must believe in that wholeheartedly.
Because the guy has delivered an intriguing-looking, thoroughly art-y brain scrambler with his latest film, an unfaithful – from like, what I can read online – adaptation of the 2001 Michel Faber novel of the same name.
Taking a sharp break from from her Marvelverse queenhood, Scarlett Johansson stars as a beyond-beautiful alien fatale that cruises the streets of Scotland in search of a very specific type of men that she then seduces into joining her for a ride and into her creepy cottage/undercover spaceship (?) where very very bad things happen to them under the creep-like watch of another equally enigmatic alien who’s taken the shape of a male hooli-motorcyclist.
And what happens there is these unremarkable-looking lads with impossible accents enter but they don’t exit.
They literally get sucked into a pool of black goo as they undress for their temptress, following her in a trance, besotted with her luscious cherry lips and the way her unfortunately dated stonewashed jeans hug her curves, and thinking they are about to get the best booty of their lives, not knowing that soon they will be wasted into nothing.
It all plays out quite moodily and quietly a monotonously, though. Glazer’s direction is elegant, alright, but it is all so...surreal. And like, Basel-y. Meaning the film plays like some video installation rather than a narrative.
Thus, it is up to “Don’t Call Me ScarJo” to carry Under the Skin.
Which she does. Magnetically.
She is super-watchable. But the darn thing should test the patience of non-hipsters who will not eat it up, y’ know. Nothing is ever expressly explained: everything which I understand made Faber’s novel a well-received entry is diluted. The effect is frustratingly eery, and it’ll be only after much discussion with your fellow moviegoers that you may settle on a meaning for, say, her until-then-detached character’s illuminating interaction with a disfigured man or the moment she became more human.
But then again, you just may arrive at the conclusion that the very best thing about Under the Skin is that it was during its production that the funny Scarlett Johansson Falling Down meme was born.
My Rating **