Rated: R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 18, 2014 Released by: A24 Films
A science-fiction thriller carries an alluring, if hampering ambiguity to it that will definitely divide its audiences even if it's more than visually captivating. Something that auteurs like David Lynch and Gus Van Sant might like more than many others who might inhabit specialized venues from an ominous, even witty calibration.
Under The Skin stars Scarlett Johansson (also on many more screens this week in Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier) in what some may call a very strange, possibly haunting art-house version of Species. It's set in a very gloomy, shivery Glasgow where a creature takes the form of a cunningly distracting twenty-something woman (Johansson, who was key to the success of Her which won director Spike Jonze an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay).
With slightly unkempt jet black hair, blood red lipstick and fur coat the emotions of a coquettish, unctuous persona (operating out of a white van) and her prey allows the actress more prominent in the Marvel universe (the irony of this film's release contrasting with Captain America: Winter Soldier) to reel in her glamorous side downplaying the role with a cold, later curious efficiency. In a blotchy haven she can watch her prey undo themselves from their own ravenous appetites. In what can be viewed as lurid invasion material perhaps a New Age version of the David Bowie film, The Man Who Fell To Earth, what could often be exasperating, might really make for an exhilarating perspective on death, loneliness and lust.
Jonathan Glazer (Birth) directs with a degree of audacity for the sublime and visceral as a queenly shape-shifter begins to have human inklings that can have perilous ramifications as her kin are at a loss for her whereabouts. In a way it's about magnetism that nourishes the feelings of disparate individuals in a polished, even gritty production that wisely interlocks the mundane with the ethereal.
Scenes that engage a dark odyssey range from the surreptitious lensing from a van to a beach that offers a noticeable moral ambivalence. Essentially, Under The Skin may not poignantly envelop its title like Johansson's most recent more successful semi-futuristic foray (whose narrative although less detached bears a resemblance to Glazer's atypical methodology with his characters). Yet through its enticing protagonist an evocative ambiance is maintained through the kind of suggestive searching that can be joyous and disheartening just as the experience from afar can be mystifying and dreamlike.
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