Sexy beast! Scarlet Johansson as the alien in Under The Skin.

Sexy beast! Scarlet Johansson as the alien in Under The Skin.

When I read the novel Under The Skin by Michel Faber, I found it disturbing and a little distasteful. It’s the story of a woman who fell to earth who lures hitchhikers in a remote part of Scotland to a sticky end. Forget any tales of cute extraterrestrials – this is one alien who does not come in peace.  It was all a little too vivid for my taste although I’m tempted to read it again to see if I feel the same way about it now. The main motivation would be that it has now been made into a film which is currently doing the festival circuit  – Telluride , Venice and Toronto. The movie gets a bad review in Variety but the critic’s closing complaint about “the thick Scottish brogues rendering large swathes of dialogue incomprehensible” make me suspect that this is not to be taken too seriously.  This seems to me equivalent to bitching about the street patois of the black characters from Baltimore in HBO’s ‘The Wire’.  One man’s incomprehensibility is another man’s authenticity. I give more credence to Mark Cousins whose magnificent Story of Film (book + TV series)  makes him a movie expert whose opinion I respect. He has just written two Tweets which read as  follows: “I think it’s years since I’ve seen a film as good as Under the Skin directed by Jonathan glazer. A masterpiece”. “S Johansson + Scotland + hidden cameras + new imagery + death music + tenderness + brutality + sex + Orphee + Glasgow = Under the Skin”

Jonathan Glazer

I have not seen either of  the English director’s  previous two films – Sexy Beast & Birth – but jonathan Glazer’s distinctive work in music videos and commercials illustrate that he has the ability to combine striking images with a condensed narrative in an original way. He has worked on advertising campaigns for Levi’s, Stella Artois, Volkswagon  and Wrangler. He has made videos for artists such as Massive Attack, Jamiroquai, Nick Cave and The Dead Weather. These are two of my favourites , both in black and white – a surreal ad for Guinness (“he drifts off with questions and wakes up with answers”) and a wonderfully atmospheric video for Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out)

The music score for Under The Skin is Mica Levi aka Micachu is also an intriguing choice and another reason this movie is near the top of must-see films this year.