Under the Skin – We Can’t Have Sex With Aliens

I was quite surprised to learn that Jonathan Glazer chose Scarlett Johansson as the anti-heroine of his new sci-fi movie; Under the Skin. I personally never thought of her as a great actress, but I believe it was because I always found her in the same type of roles; the pulpy blond with curves that every man falls in love with. But even though the storyline stays basically the same, in Under the Skin she’s not blond, and she’s not human.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.10.02The movie is forming a loop, therefore I will speak of the opening of it, at the end of the review.

Hence, Alien Johansson, is a killer hooker, yes I explain. She wandered around Scotland, in her white van, looking for men. She starts by simulating her being lost, and finishes by offering to drop off the man to wherever he’s going. But then she makes a lusty proposition, and head to her house, which is actually more of a portal. She undresses, moving backwards, teasing the guy to follow her, until hypnotized he sinks into a black water, and get trapped under it. In there, he disintegrates, leaving only his skin (this human skin might be used by aliens but it isn’t very explicit).

Anyway, one day she ran into a guy suffering from neurofibromatosis (Adam Pearson), a tumor disorder, and offers him the first woman contact he never had, led him into her house but then spare his life. This encounter provoked something in her, triggering a particule of her humanity.

Now, about this opening, from start we are gravitating into space, among stars and planets, metaphorically implying we are inside one of her eyes. As soon as we quit this galaxy, we see naked Scarlett, taking clothes from a dead girl, in a timeless, spaceless white decor. The laying girl is actually a broken alien; a tear comes down to her face – when our leading lady finishes to dress – meaning that she felt something, something human, she let herself be exposed to human emotions. Thus we understand that if this alien, killing men, starts to feel something, she will die. A connection between two things are now possible. The eyes and the bikers. Indeed, the bikers are several men, mentoring alien women, making sure, by looking into their eyes, that there are still insensitive, cold.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 8.24.05 Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.04.02Director Jonathan Glazer, turned his sci-fi movie, into a film d’auteur, something powerful and poignant. A new way of representing aliens, reducing them, when exposed to human emotions and feelings, to trapped and scared animals. They aren’t familiar with their human bodies, and there is this beautiful scene, where our main character, looks into the mirror, naked, and explores the surface of her body, her movements, and muscles. And later she will learn that, sexual intercourses between aliens and humans aren’t possible, they aren’t compatible due to an extraterrestrial body that is not fit for that. To dig even deeper, we might link the penetration as something happening under the skin. And there are many phallic visual metaphors used by Glazer, especially when those bewitched men enter the house, enter a black hole, into the abyss of the female alien.

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However, this overwhelming loneliness that our protagonist is exposed to, is the most powerful and poignant thing. Scarlett Johansson gave her best performance, and proved her potential, or finally had been albe to. We empathize with her, and there is something disturbing, a sort of small fire of fear we can experience through out the film, that the actress is maintaining. We feel that something is not right, that she’s not belonging to this place, to this nature, that isn’t particularly friendly, but is rather threatening, and rejecting her in a way, like a body would reject an external material. Johansson gave a very physical performance, she expressed with her body, a body which reminded me of Motoko Kusanagi‘s, the cyborg of Ghost in the Shell.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 11.44.46Finally, Under the Skin is a beautiful movie, that deserves the patience of the spectator, deserves interest and concentration. It is all about symbolic and requires attention. It is a movie we observe more than we hear.

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Her – If Love Was Conceived By Apple

It’s been a while now, since I saw a moving and beautiful love story on screen.

Spike Jonze offered me the possibility to re-experiment the joy and tears of a marvelous romance. Her completely overwhelmed and affected me.
Choosing Joaquin Phoenix as the poetic protagonist, heartbroken, having a hard time opening himself to other women, was the best investment Spike Jonze could do. This actor embodies sweetness, fragility and instability, he made those emotions, adjectives, physically visible. After watching Walk The Line, and reading the plot of Her, you can only think of Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly.
He writes letters for people based on souvenirs they send to him, and lives a bit by procuration. One day, as he was out, he bought an Operation System, which is basically giving your computer a voice and a false consciousness.
And, also choosing Scarlett Johansson‘s voice, as Samantha, the OS 1, was a fine choice. She doesn’t get on your nerves, and she makes you want to see her physically (even if you know the actress), it gets you deeper into the film, and make you share the frustration of both characters.

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That is what the movie is about. Set in a near future, where people are wearing 1980’s clothes, everything is computerized, wireless and you don’t need no keyboards anymore. Virtual love is in the chore of this world.
It is raising the issue of dating websites being more and more popular, but also the issue of anti-sociability, because of this growing technology preventing people to have physical interactions. It is futuristic but simultaneously it speaks to us by being already half implemented in our lives. And after directing movies made where people fall in love with robots, E.Ts or monsters, filmmakers deal now with falling in love with a simple voice. We could fall in love with Siri for exemple. And this is why I had to make the link between Apple and Her. Raising issues, but also opening the door of love and its incredible and vast possibilities.

The power of Spike Jonze is his exciting capacity to hypnotize the spectators and allow them to identify themselves to Theodore’s character, to truly get him. We empathize with him, we understand every emotion, feeling, behavior he has. And we fall in love with his story just like he falls in love with Samantha.
What could be seen as marginal, odd, appears to us, as normal, even obvious. Thinking, even for a second, that Samantha could be the one, is a proof of our implication into the movie, and how fast we adapted ourselves to the situation. A situation that contains familiar tones to everyone of us.

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The poetic evolution of the movie and of Joaquin Phoenix’s character, is the strength of Her. Theodore is leading us with him in this journey of love, he explores a new thing, a new possibility. The magnificence of the film, is its naturalistic tone, its naive sparkle, and the dialectic side of it, because, Theodore is rediscovering his world, rediscovering and learning about love, just like a child or a teenager would do.
Finding out about a new way of love, is exciting and even though we should be careful with it, he throw ourselves into the unknown and pray for the fall to be soft.

Her is a modern love story, that seems so close to what could happen nowadays. Let yourself be blown away by this romance, and don’t even try to hold your breath.