Tag Archives: sci fi

Under the Skin – film review

24 Apr

Last month I went down to the Curzon in Soho – who wouldn’t want to eat a cheeky Konditor & Cook brownie before a film? – to watch the indie flick, ‘Under the Skin.’  I’d briefly looked at reviews, most of which seemed to be positive, and I thought the premise sounded interesting:

A voluptuous woman of unknown origin combs the highway in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again. Based on the novel by Michael Faber, this film examines human experience from the perspective of an unforgettable heroine who grows too comfortable in her borrowed skin, until she is abducted into humanity with devastating results.

The thought of Scarlett Johannson as this ‘voluptuous’ woman (for some reason, it tickles me that this word is included in the description) roaming the grim landscape of Glasgow intrigued me.  I’m not a huge fan of her acting; I thought she was great in ‘Ghost World’ and ‘Lost in Translation’ is one of my favourite films, but since then, her sex-bomb Marilyn Monroe-esque image hasn’t really captivated me in any way (perhaps this is due to the fact that I am not a young, hot -blooded male).  Anyway, I’d heard that some of the scenes where she goes round to pick up men are real, filmed with hidden cameras, and that was definitely one of the better aspects of the film.  It was something of a novelty to watch Scarlett Johannson, an A list movie star, driving around in a van, trying to pick people up – it was interesting, awkward and comical at the same time.

What I had an issue with was the slow pace of the film.  I am usually a fan of slow films, lingering moments, and unspoken words that add something to the scene (for how to do this well, see the aforementioned ‘Lost in Translation’).  However, with ‘Under the Skin’ I felt that this was all there was – shots of Scarlett looking dazed into the distance, putting on lipstick, the beautiful but grim Glaswegian landscape etc – to the point that it started to dull any poignancy or impact it initially had.

The scenes where the men found their humanity stolen consisted of a naked man walking in slow motion into a black pool which ends up enveloping and trapping him.  I understand the significance of the image but found that the repetition of these scenes, accompanied with the dramatic music, unintentionally comical.

That aside, I did enjoy the second half where Scarlett the alien-type creature, has a touching moment with a severely disfigured young man, and starts to become more human, and there was a genuinely tense moment at the end when she is chased by a man in the woods and you see her emotional advancement.  However, I felt these parts were overshadowed by the fact that the film was too long and overly repetitive making what sounded like an amazing plot into something that was often dull and tedious to watch.



One of my favourite films…

8 May

…is ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’.  Written by Charlie Kaufman, it stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in what I think are their best performances so far.  Before watching this, most people associated Carrey with his exaggerated slapstick comedy and perhaps were slightly reticent about his broader acting skills (although ‘The Truman Show’ demonstrated his innate potential); however, I was blown away by his subtle and utterly convincing performance as Joel Barish, a sensitive and introverted character who is heartbroken after his girlfriend Clementine Kruczynski breaks up with him and has memories of their relationship erased.  I should probably state here that the film falls into the genre of ‘romantic dramedy science fiction’.  Admittedly this is an incredibly niche area but please do not be put people off if you are not usually keen on sci-fi as the film seamlessly and convincingly transports you into this alternative universe where erasing memories is possible.


It is directed by the amazing Michel Gondry, who has worked on music videos for ‘The Chemical Brothers’ and ‘Cibo Matto’, so already I had high expectations.  The film explores the nature of memories – their transience and randomness which is highlighted by the non-chronological sequence in which the viewer observes Joel’s recollections.  The title is from the poem, ‘Eloisa to Aberlard’, by Alexander Pope:

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

And who hasn’t, at one point or another, felt that ‘forgetting’ would improve things?

Upon finding out that Clementine has erased all memories of Joel, he immediately plans to do the same; however, in the middle of this process, he finds himself trying to cling desperately onto the memories of their relationship.  Whether good or painful, they are dear to him and he finds out too late that he does not want to lose memories of what time they spent together.  I am sure this is something that we can all relate to; the wish to blot out the past and move on afresh.  However, what this film so beautifully demonstrates, sadness and happiness are part of being real and human.  To erase this is to erase your experiences which make you the person you are.


Another reason I love the film is because of the character of Clementine.  She’s not your typical female character; she can be inconsiderate, selfish but more importantly, she’s a lot more real than the average Hollywood starlet.  One of my biggest gripes in films is the stereotypical portrayal of the ‘quirky’ female lead (thanks, Zooey Deschanel).  No, you are not quirky or a little bit ‘wacky’ simply because you have a fringe, wear babydoll dresses with coloured tights and retro glasses.  Nor are you quirky because you spout ‘random’ inane statements that people find odd but also quite cute.  Give me an outright mental female character any day, complete with mental patient gown and straggly hair – there’s just something so formulaic about this twee shite that seems so ubiquitous at the moment.  Clementine is probably one of the best portrayals of real, insecure and flawed female lead in film history. On the outset, she appears extroverted with her colourful hair and her eccentric taste in clothes.  She is fickle, cheery and noisy but there is nothing pretentious about her.  I think it is something to do with her acknowledgement and acceptance of her flaws and imperfections (‘I’m just a f**ked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own piece of mind’) that is particularly appealing.  Her fiery personality is in stark contrast with Joel’s and that is what makes him (and most of the viewers, I’d imagine) love her.