The 10 best films of 2014: No 1 – Under the Skin
But when he gave us his long-gestating free adaptation of Michel Faber's novel Under the Skin, the result really was gasp-inducing: hilarious, disturbing, audacious. No less an A-lister than Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in human form who roams the streets and shopping malls of Glasgow. Perfectly genuine footage of real-life passersby is shown as the incognito Johansson impassively sizes up these earthlings for their calorific value. Then actors will step out of the crowd for their scenes with the great seducer. She takes them back to her place: a mysterious dark cavern in which, in an erotic trance, they submit to being imprisoned and farmed for their meat – and perhaps, who knows, for their very soul.
Watching Under the Skin again brought to mind another comparison: Orson Welles – the Welles who succeeded in creating a hoax martian invasion on the radio and who, in F for Fake (1975), got his partner Oja Kodar to walk around the streets in a miniskirt, secretly filming the lascivious expressions of the non-actor guys looking at her.
Under the Skin is just so visually free and uninhibited that there is an intense dark, destructive sexiness in everything about it – quite apart from the hilarious, bizarre, mesmeric eroticism of the film itself. It is a work of subcutaneous potency. It gets under your skin.
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