Under the Skin Screen 34 articles

Under the Skin


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  • Under the Skin is a perfect metaphoric and experiential exploration of this epidemic and epidermis of loneliness... Under the Skin’s architecture, its sombre materiality and its oppressive mise en scène help create the spatial conditions of brute and fragmented loneliness.

  • My reading of this picture is specifically about what it means to be a transgender woman in a society that doesn’t see that as normative behaviour... Amy is not explicitly a transgender woman, but she represents one in my eyes because her pursuit of finding her humanity is parallel to finding womanhood.

  • An ode to the untouchable beauty of Scarlett Johansson (she walks on water, apparently). A sense of life at one remove, details made strange by being magnified. A tale of a malfunctioning robot (alien, whatever) undone by dawning self-consciousness - a realisation, you might say, that she's Scarlett Johansson - after meeting her polar opposite, the man who personifies ugliness.

  • While “Under the Skin” purports to ponder mankind as regarded by an objective, alien gaze, the movie is also a documentary portrait of its wildly objectified star. Ms. Johansson is a sacred monster. What makes the movie most uncanny is the knowledge that her sexy vampire is not a man-hungry femme fatale but an implacable, agendered It.

  • There are some good ideas in this fourth film by Jonathan Glazer, but none of them seem to take proper flight. What we get however, is an impeccable exercise in cinematography and scoring, like the misty-ridden scene which recalls Antonioni’s Identificazione di una donna(1982), but without the undertones that made the master’s films the canonic milestones they are today. Probably overrated, but not completely forgettable, Glazer misses by little.

  • But if Johansson's character is superficially a femme fatale, the film stands as the most probing examination of that type since Brian De Palma named a movie after the trope. Making the most out of limited resources, the film takes advantage of the nearly unintelligible brogues of the Scottish locals, as well as some brilliantly warped sound design, to obscure the speech of everyone talking to the alien...

  • The eyes are those of the woman-like alien, and her ride feels like a familiar story that goes on perpetuating itself, from era to era, in one form after another. It could be a serviceable device for a porn film, or a vampire film, or perhaps merely a film about a disconnected person interacting inconclusively with a succession of other disconnected persons.

  • The movie is totally successful at defamiliarizing ordinary actions and objects. When Johansson’s alien tries cake (her first taste of normal food), a long close-up follows her fork as it moves with painful slowness towards her mouth; it’s like nothing of the kind has ever been filmed or experienced before.

  • ...Considering the evidence, I think this makes Under the Skin Glazer’s most strangely optimistic and poetic work. For all we know, the ash we see billowing up into the air is Laura returning home to file her final report on the absurd and brutal contradictions of life on Earth.

  • I'm as suspicious of the term 'pure cinema' as I am 'guilty pleasure' but there is a kind of purity in Glazer's direction. It could only be attempted in a film, and only by someone who was probing the outer reaches of the medium's capability, possessing some of Johansson's curiosity about what it's capable of.

  • If nothing else, [Under the Skin] confirms Glazer, who had been missing in action for far too long (Birthcame out a decade ago), as both a risk-taker of the first order and an atmospheric virtuoso. With this film, he's taken a novel and stripped it of everything but the aspects that captured his interest, then completely reconceived it for the new medium, creating something damn near unprecedented.

  • This arty sci-fi thriller... raises far more questions than it answers, yet that enigmatic quality is central to its appeal. Like Birth (2004)—the previous feature of director Jonathan Glazer, with Nicole Kidman as a woman convinced that her dead lover has been reincarnated as a preteen boy—Under the Skin hints at several different readings without confirming any of them. That makes for an occasionally frustrating viewing experience, yet it also ensures that the film stays with you.

  • Like Sexy Beast and Birth, which employed wild narrative flourishes backed up by strong aesthetic foundations, the film’s inverted sense of closed-lipped mystery is integrated perfectly within a broader sleight of hand, the gestures toward randomness all part of a tightly structured illusion. This makes for a singular work, one that pushes buttons in ways they rarely get pushed, the sort of movie that makes most others feel ordinary and unadventurous.

  • Glazer seems to film the shoppers as if something off-kilter and indecipherable were happening; but what he’s actually doing is filming the idea of an alien in a shopping mall looking at things that she doesn’t quite get—and that’s all. It’s not a vision or even an idea, it’s a premise, and one that’s left completely undeveloped. Glazer evokes the idea of strangeness without actually seeing much, showing much, or revealing much.

  • [It] doesn't move or feel like most science fiction movies—like most movies, period. It's a film out of its time. Its time, I think, is the 1970s, when directors like Alexander Jodorowsky ("El Topo," "The Holy Mountain") and Nicolas Roeg ("Don't Look Now," "The Man Who Fell to Earth") made viscerally intense features with subjective visuals and sound effects and music and dissociative, even poetic editing... "Under the Skin" is hideously beautiful. Its life force is overwhelming.

  • The film’s tone is a fluid claustrophobia, like the mounting tide we see approach an abandoned 18-month-old (collateral damage in one “hunt”), waves of sound and image washing over one another, attributable both to the score by Mica Levi (haunting, Ligeti-like banshee-violins trembling for unnatural lengths) as much as the uncanny images Grazer has conjured (those liquid no-spaces, the lunar landscapes lined by arterial pavement outside the city, a body forced to peel itself).

  • If I tell you that Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin” is one of the strangest and most disturbing science-fiction films of recent years, it’s a true statement that points you in entirely the wrong direction... One of the many startling things about “Under the Skin” is how complicated and distressing a story can be told with almost no dialogue and absolutely no explanation or back story.

  • This frightening, unearthly film is the most striking achievement yet by a director whose first two features Sexy Beast (00) and Birth (04) were not quite fully realized, but suggested a will to unearth the strangeness within familiar genre forms. Under the Skin is not only genuinely experimental but feels authentically alien—almost something that a documentarist from another world might have shot here on a field mission.

  • As a sensory experience, Under the Skin often astounds... In the first few minutes, a pinprick of light slowly expands, a nearly blinding whiteout accompanied by the sound of dissonant, furious strings... This big bang ends with an extreme close-up of an eyeball filling the screen, recalling not only Keir Dullea’s orb... during the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey but also Catherine Deneuve’s at the start ofRepulsion, another film in which lascivious men meet bad ends.

  • [The Faber novel has] been made into a film that, in the hands of Jonathan Glazer, poet of the implausible, is practically an exercise in circumscription. The film doesn't so much abstract Faber's ambitions, it willfully shoves them to a place beyond the corners of the frame, conveying through throbbing sound and image a furious sensory experience that mimics what it might be like to view our world through otherworldly eyes.

  • Glazer is preparing us for something stark and cosmic, intimate and grandiose: basically, anything and everything. He primes us for a metaphysical odyssey that can only really be sourced to the final pages of Faber’s book... Glazer has radically deconstructed his unfilmable source material and reassembled the few fragments he has retained into a sociologically ambiguous mood piece.

  • Despite the schematism of this communion between Beauty and ‘Beast’, the savage final scenes in the Scottish Highlands offer no sentimental hosannas; Glazer retains his austere rigour to the finish. With an ending that’s as matter-of-fact as it is mysterious and provocative, Under the Skin confirms him – three terrific films down – as one of Britain’s most exciting filmmakers.

  • Whether or not her departure from Glasgow is motivated by remorse, boredom, curiosity or capriciousness remains unclear, for Under the Skin operates under the assumption that even if a lion could talk, we could not understand what she said. These semi-Lacanian “mirror phase” moments, where she further explores her body, neither fully human nor alien, don’t feel sensual, humorous or clinical. She is still simply trying to process her experiences, unable to yet articulate a hypothesis.

  • Putting the “alien” in “alienating,” Glazer’s third feature fuses a cryptic stranger-in-a-strange-land narrative, guerrilla shooting approach, and a tightly contained audiovisual scheme that makes for a claustrophobically seamless and unnerving drama of self-awakening.

  • With images and a soundtrack of staggering strangeness and beauty, and very few words, Glazer delivers a great film about otherness and solitude. Johansson is mesmerizing as the extraterrestrial heroine: robotic and predatory at first, then increasingly curious, as she slowly—and mostly silently—deviates from her mission. It is a dark, sensual, and interior work that runs counter to the standard space-alien genre, which is probably what makes it such a captivatingly otherworldly object.

  • Critics are having a hard time pinning down exactly what Under the Skin is trying to say, if it's saying anything at all, but the film undeniably deconstructs female sexuality in relation to masculine power, and the baffling nature of that relationship, which is unraveled via the perspective of an alien.

  • Funny you mention Casanova and Dracula, because that could easily be one way to describe the legitimately uncanny Under the Skin. Another would beSpecies directed by the Antonioni of Red Desert... As a portrait of consumption in inner and outer spaces, Under the Skin is simultaneously direct in its metaphoric implications and as crazily prismatic as Holy Motors. It can be as trying as it is striking, but I don’t plan on forgetting it any time soon.

  • ...The film has an odd hold. I would like to have seen Faber's ideas followed all the way through, but you sense what Glazer's getting at. You trust that he knows what he's doing even as it slowly divorces itself from the thriller it's intended to be. You're left with a fascinating object. If the movie doesn't belong in an art house (and it does), it would be even more at home in a museum.

  • A second screening was revelatory of more than just an arty Species. Johansson's character suddenly seemed unbearably sad. Clearly, she's reeling from some half-understood crisis of identity and goes off the grid, fleeing into the woods. I wouldn't call her mood anything as concrete as loneliness or job dissatisfaction. Maybe the idea here is that even aliens lose their sense of purpose. I suspect this is exactly how Glazer feels about moviemaking...

  • Opening by quoting 2001: A Space Odyssey, and featuring long stretches of total abstraction, it’s the most ambitious film here, throwing out the rules of conventional structure in a way that takes some getting used to. This is hardly the first film to observe an alien encountering strange customs, but it may be the first that seems conceived from that perspective formally as well as dramatically.

  • Aside from these ultra-stylized seduction scenes, Under the Skin was shot primarily using hidden cameras that imbue the visuals with the strange eeriness of a surveillance video. While not particularly pleasing to the eye, Glazer’s bold filming technique allies the viewer with the alien’s perspective, supplanting the narrative necessity to explicate the otherworldliness of its central subject.

  • The movie becomes less sinister and more about some unnamable longing; it's helped along by an astonishing, sonorous score by the young English songwriter, composer, and performer Mica Levi, which is hypnotic and threatening at once. And Johansson, always a likable and fully alive presence, is extraordinary here.

  • The montage sequences in which Johansson’s resident alien stalks the streets are suffused with sufficient voyeuristic pleasure, abetted by Daniel Landen’s fine, charcoaled camerawork, but are floated without determined weight—she’s more gawker than stalker. Such vacuity could reflect the vague interface occasioned by the human/alien encounter, but weightlessness is something that more searching filmmakers have endeavored to conjure and shape from less far-out scenarios.

  • Glazer has always been longer on atmosphere and uncanny moods than on narrative, but the fatal flaw of “Under the Skin” isn’t that not much happens; it’s that what does happen isn’t all that interesting. The world as seen through alien eyes, it turns out, looks much like the world as seen through the eyes of a schizophrenic (“Repulsion”), a paranoiac (Lodge Kerrigan’s “Keane”) or a sociopath (Cristi Puiu’s “Aurora”) — which, if it’s Glazer’s point, is one he makes early and often...

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