Top Ten Movies of 2014 — Number Five

5 skin

One of my favorite modern tropes — or at least one that amuses me a great deal — is the presentation of the male libido’s helpless susceptibility to the overtures of attractive women leading to men constantly strolling right into peril because they believe the sexy women really wants a tryst, when the real end goal is quite different. The apotheosis arrives in Under the Skin, as, say, the sexy spy in a catsuit who clobbers aroused males to swipe government secrets levels up significantly to become an otherworldly seductress able to lure random strangers into an oily pool that will leech away their very being. In adapting a Michel Faber novel (reportedly with a very free hand), director Jonathan Glazer comes up with a phantasmagorical, sexually devious drama about nothing less ambitious than what it means to be human. Mixing footage shot surreptitiously on the city streets of Glasgow with bizarrely imaginative dreamscapes, Glazer makes a film that feels like a Terrence Malick rumination of long ache of life and the lurking power of nature that’s been threaded through a sci-fi transmogrifying machine. Daniel Landin’s cinematography highlights the spooky beauty in every corner of the film, the camera pressing in with special care when Glazer is fascinated by different moments of tactile intensity. Scarlett Johansson plays the lead, identified as “The Female,” with necessary commitment to Glazer’s unsettling vision. A performance that could have easily spiraled into a hollow stunt instead carries the same questing nature of the character and the film itself. Everything about Under the Skin is infused with the same vibrant sense of daring.

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Posted in Film

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