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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Under the Skin

I'm thrilled to be returning to The Film Experience for "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", especially with such a visual dazzler as director Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin.  Under the Skin is a totally singular movie, an intoxicating and strange hybrid of science-fiction, art film, and gender commentary.

The first reason I chose my shot was to highlight the amazing power of great filmmaking and cinematography. Looking at this shot, it looks more like a painting you would see in a museum than a frame in a movie.  There were dozens of others I could have chosen that would have been equally striking.  When an indie director can make such beauty on a limited budget, what's the excuse for the many visually boring movies coming out of Hollywood each year?

Except on rare occasions, beauty alone does not make a great movie.  This shot comes at an important moment in the film.  Up to this point, our otherworldly, unnamed main character (Scarlett Johansson) has been focused on men.  She prowls the streets of Glasgow, hunts for vulnerable men, and captures takes control of them.  Then there comes a point midway through the movie that's a montage of women; all types of women, doing all kinds of ordinary things.  As Johansson watches these women, it seems she is learning how to take on the female form and female persona.  The movie becomes a swirling montage of women from which Johansson's face emerges, almost as if being reborn. The movie switches after this point as well, with Johansson abandoning her mission and experimenting with how to be a female in this society. This theme will echo through the second half of the movie and end with one of the most striking endings I've seen in a long time.  In the end, I think the shot is a crucial turning point in the movie and perhaps a keys to at least some of its illusive meaning.

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