VENICE – I want to sit with Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin” for a while longer before writing about it at length: the film’s hard surfaces are so immaculate, belying the powerful, frayed-nerve story of multiple forms of bodily invasion that nestles inside, that I may take in a second screening at Venice before trying to crack them. This much is immediately apparent: it’s the riskiest, most extravagantly sensual and image-fuelled film in Competition at Venice. Naturally, a handful of dolts booed it at this morning’s press screening. What else is new?
Glazer’s been here before. Nine years ago, “Birth” debuted on the Lido to profoundly split critical opinion, but rode it out: today, the film remains divisive, but its critical rehabilitation has been aggressively impassioned, and its cultural stock is substantial. Something tells me his latest, an even thornier piece, will follow a similar trajectory: its defenders (particularly within the Brit contingent, though Greg Ellwood was among its champions when it sneaked a few days ago in Telluride) are already vocal.
The person with the most to gain from “Under the Skin” is Scarlett Johansson: people are calling her performance revelatory, but when I say she’s not doing anything I didn’t already know she can do, I mean that as a compliment. It’s adventurous but selfless work in a film that puts her milky bombshell beauty to more ideal use than anything she’s ever been in. This is a great year for Johansson: at the other end of the spectrum, we have her delightfully droll, best-in-show turn as a snappy Jersey girl in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Don Jon” coming up. She couldn’t have picked two more different vehicles with which to reinvent herself this year.
More on the film later, then, but in the meantime, UK distributor StudioCanal has unveiled the film’s first teaser trailer. It won’t leave you any the wiser as to the tricky game Glazer is playing — but does give you a chance to sample its exquisitely imagery, as well as 26-year-old composer Mica Levi’s startling score. Check it out and tell us what you think.