Under the Skin is one of the most unusual films to hit the big screen in years, and the shoot was just as unique, according to director Jonathan Glazer. For much of the movie, which casts Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress luring men to their doom, Glazer filmed Johansson with hidden cameras as she tried to seduce non-actors who had no clue that they were flirting with a superstar. How did he convince a Hollywood A-lister to drive around Scotland on the prowl, and how did he then exhort her suitors to sign a release form? Is there any sense of postpartum depression, or is it exhilarating to finally have reached this point? From the logline, people may be expecting a much more conventional sexual thriller.
Is "Under the Skin," in which Scarlett Johansson plays a mysterious woman luring men into a fatal mating dance, a brilliant science fiction movie—more of an "experience" than a traditional story, with plenty to say about gender roles, sexism and the power of lust? Is it a pretentious gloss on a very old story about men's fear of women, and women's discomfort with their own allure? Does it contain mysteries that can only be unpacked with repeat viewings, or is it a shallow film whose assured style and eerie tone make it seem deeper than it is? Is there, in fact, something beneath the movie's skin? Why is every sentence in this paragraph a question? I can answer that last one: "Under the Skin," Jonathan Glazer's first film since 's " Birth ," is special because it's hard to pin down.
Under the Skin is an expression of humanity shown through an alien lens. Scarlett Johansson has the avant-garde role of a lifetime, as an alien sent to harvest the meat from humans, who finds empathy and love instead, and is punished. The entire production hinges on a vast, cosmic score by Mica Levi that will haunt your dreams forever.
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