Film

Under the Skin

Stranger danger

Thursday, May 15, 2014

She doesn’t say much, this black-haired woman in the tight jeans and tacky fur jacket. She drives an unmarked van. She stops and asks passersby—always male—for directions. Sometimes she’ll offer a lift. She’s friendly and inquisitive, wanting to know whether the men have family, friends, roommates.

And if they don’t, that’s the last anyone will hear of them. Poor guys—one victim after another.

In Under the Skin, a deeply creepy and mysterious noir from filmmaker Jonathan Glazer, Scarlett Johansson is this quite literal femme fatale, robotic, hypnotic, trolling Scotland—cities, villages, the cold rocky shores—for prey. Who she is and where she’s from are questions that get answered, to a degree, as she moves through her nights and days, but she shares an affinity with other strangers in a strange land: David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, say, or Jeff Bridges in Starman, only less benevolent.

Under the Skin begins with a trippy Kubrickian lightshow—orbs and spheres, horizon lines illuminated in blinding flares. (The music throughout, by Mica Levi—spare synthesized strings, percussion—adds to the eerie vibe of the film.) And then the camera finds a motorcycle zooming through the night on a curved road, its headlight probing the dark. And soon enough, there’s Johansson, on her predatory rounds.

Glazer’s film is minimalist, avant garde-y, and its seduction scenes—Johannson stripping down, and the man she’s lured along for the ride stripping down, and then moving toward each other as the surface beneath their feet turns to liquid—have the power and poetry of a dream.

Or a nightmare.

Glazer and his cinematographer, Daniel Landin, capture people as they come and go, commuting, shopping, partying. There are sequences on crowded streets, faces dark, voices loud, that evoke Lindsay Anderson’s mid-1950s Free Cinema short, O Dreamland—a narration-less tour through a seaside amusement park, like Diane Arbus fueled on fish and chips.

Under the Skin definitely gets under your skin. If you want spooky, allegory-free sci-fi, the film works that way—an alien among us, trying to come to terms with this odd new context, and with her increasingly empathic urges. (The more she lingers, and commingles, the less sure she is of her own being.) But if you care to look at Glazer and Johansson’s film as something else—a woman’s journey as a sexual being, the hunger, the curiosity, the power, the fear—it works that way, too.

Just don’t climb into any vans driven by smiling, beguiling women who offer a ride back to their place.

Really, don’t.

ICU Roof #2
More Film...
The Midwife
Catherines the Great

The French-language title of director Martin Provost’s latest femme-centric drama is Sage Femme, a term that technically means midwife, as in the medical profession, but also literally describes a “well-behaved woman.” The double meaning is particularly apt when applied to the…

more »
Mother!
Something nasty this way comes

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky wants to have his commercial cake and chomp down on some vexing personal issues, too, in Mother!, a very Rosemary’s Baby-like intimate horror tale that definitely grabs your attention and eventually soars well over the top to make the bold concluding…

more »
Marjorie Prime
Mind over memory

The haunting and allusive Marjorie Prime is a sci-fi film set in the near future but its emotional resonance is bracingly immediate. Based on the 2014 play of the same name by Jordan Harrison, and written and directed by Michael Almereyda, it is, in the largest sense, a movie about memory.…

more »
Events
Today
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Lynden Farmers Market

12:00pm|Front Street

Together for Peace

6:00pm|Majestic

Stream Tour

6:00pm|Whatcom Creek

Day of Peace observes those displaced by war

6:00pm

Trash Talk

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Travel Talk

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Chuckanut Radio Hour with Nancy Pearl

7:00pm|Village Books

Authentic Illusionist Jay Ownehouse

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The Addams Family Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

The Addams Family Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Whatcom Falls Park

Ferndale Farmers Market

3:00pm|Centennial Riverwalk Park

Foof Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Farm Tunes

6:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Oktoberfest Cruises

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

The Last Outrageous Women

7:00pm|Village Books

7-Day Dance Festival Finale

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Forever Plaid

7:30pm|Conway Muse

The Mousetrap

7:30pm| Bellingham Theatre Guild

Friday Night Flicks

7:30pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Figmentally, Circus for All

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Welcome Back Students Shows

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Village Books BOB_2017
Saturday
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

The Addams Family Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Oktoberfest Cruises

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Forever Plaid

7:30pm|Conway Muse

The Mousetrap

7:30pm| Bellingham Theatre Guild

Welcome Back Students Shows

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Figmentally, Circus for All

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

South Whatcom Birding Walks

8:00am|South Whatcom Library

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Southside Rummage Sale

8:30am| Our Saviour's Lutheran Church

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Make It and Take it

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Little Mountain Trail 10K

10:00am|Carpenter Creek Winery

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Salmon Sighting

10:00am|Thompson Creek Bridge

Pesto Perfecto

11:00am|Ferndale Library

Council of the Animals

11:00am|Boulevard Park

Trial Vineyard Open House

12:00pm|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Sedro-Woolley Brewfest

2:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

The Art of Living

3:00pm|Deming Library

River Walk

3:00pm| Horseshoe Bend Trailhead.

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Kulshan CLT Community Party

5:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Democrats Dinner

5:30pm| Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa

BowEdison Anniversary Party

5:30pm|BowEdison

Fall Demo Derby

6:30pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Moment

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Salsa Night

9:30pm|Cafe Rumba

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market MBT Janis Joplin BOB_2017 Trove Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 2020 Solutions Sept 2017