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Entries in Scotland (3)

Tuesday
Jul222014

Under the Skin and Into the Fog

Formless void and darkness. And then light, blinding light. Jonathan Glazer and his gifted cinematographer Daniel Landin present them in that Biblical order. They toy with them for the remainder of Under the Skin, separating them like they're playing god.

Honorable Mention

Perhaps they are since this haunting film begins, as far as I can tell, with Creation, or a creation of sorts. Is it our protagonist being formed (?) or, rather, assuming a new form complete with vocal exercizes to play the role. (The mystery woman is never named in Under the Skin, and none of the men she entices and lures into her formless void, ever think to ask her for it so we'll refer to her as "She" or "Her" since it's Scarlett Johansson we're talking about). What She needs language for is something of a mystery. She seems to communicate best telepathically in the eery repeated shots of her and her driver/accomplice staring at each other or staring into windows / mirrors. That's as good an explanation as any for how she understands the thick Scottish brogues around her when English is not her mother tongue.

Though the details of what exactly is occuring in any given sequence of this great picture are often indecipherable, the artistry of the film is not. It's alternating visual schemes of darkness and light, its elemental preoccupations (water, air, fire... and, well Earth, all play key roles) and its weird asides (the blinking mask, that golden shimmer interlude, the cake!) and Scarlett's fascinatingly alien comportment all prove more rewarding on second viewing. 

Runner Up

The most powerful recurring image and in some ways the most inexplicably frightening is watching the men slowly sink into blackness, like sailors willfully drowning for a siren's call. You may have your own ideas about what exactly She is harvesting their skin for but I assumed it was the creation of more faux humans like herself. And if so, how perverse that Creation is always doubling as Destruction. 

And speaking of perversity, Here's my choice for Best Shot, below. In a film full of startling imagery, it's something as mundane as a car on the road, and a woman in the fog, from the point of view of a car's dashboard. It's a visual choice as it continues the film's often ingenious play on stark blacks and bright whites while reversing the now familiar feeling of men swallowed up in blackness. It's a narrative choice, marking as it does the transition to the film's last act and reverses our usual view of looking out the car's window with her and for a moment, the same view looking at her. It's an emotional choice as I forgot to breath watching it. She has rejected her calling, an apostate suddenly wandering in a strange land without purpose.

Best Shot. Into the Fog

Glazer leaves us waiting for Her return a full 14 seconds before we join her in the fog. Her emotions are still totally alien to us as she rotates in place, staring into the liquid air. Looking for what? Everything that should be mundane, including this view from inside a car we've spent half the film in, is riddled with complexity and eery wonder. Glazer has the power to render the familiar alien and by the film's end, and rather movingly, the alien familiar.

I'm not otherwise a religious person but the cinema is my church and Jonathan Glazer is one of the new gods. I've watched Under the Skin twice now, both times with equal parts reverent awe and abject fear. I'm a true believer. 

See the whole roster of chosen shots from 22 other HMWYBS participants

 

Monday
May132013

Reader Spotlight: Daniel Massie

We're getting to know The Film Experience community one-by-one. You can read a bunch of past interviews here. Today's "Reader Spotlight" is Daniel, an art student from Scotland. You can follow him on twitter here.

Nathaniel: When did you start reading TFE?

DANIEL: Around two years ago. My best friend Scott read it before I knew of it. We are both award season fanatics and general cinephiles, so it was great to plug into a smart, energetic, personable blog that obviously loved the movies as much as we did. Now it's a site I regularly 'touch base' with.

Nathaniel: What's your first movie memory?

DANIEL: I don't remember the movie that well, or at all really. But it's effects have rippled far into my life. I was 4 and my dad and I watched Arachnophobia. My mum tells me that I was beside myself after watching it, and I have been insanely + irrationally terrified of spiders ever since. How bad could it have been?

Favorite directors?

I'm not a huge follower/fanatic of directors, I drool at the mouth for performers more, but I'd say some favorites are:  Lynne Ramsay - I died for We Need To Talk About Kevin, it blew me away. Shes an Artist -visionary, brave + hard as nails;  Steven Soderberg - It makes me ill that he isn't a household name. His work is exciting + engaging. Never boring; Todd Haynes - "SAFE", that's all; John Cameron Mitchell - I liked Shortbus a lot, but Rabbit Hole was something truly special, and I think his vision/direction had a lot to do with that.

Shout-outs to Ang Lee, Jane Campion + Darren Aranofsky

What's your movie diet like?

In a normal year around 70 in theatre and on DVD around 60, being the ones I missed, and ones I've yet to see from past years. I'm very fortunate that even though I live in a small Scottish town, near a fairly small city, we get an excellent selection of smaller films. Very lucky indeed.

If you were in charge for a year, what movies would you get made?

Oh yes, I'm Megan Ellison for a year. I'd start with Lynne Ramsay's Moby Dick adaptation, however much she wants, it's a deal. Anything that has Allison Janney in a demanding lead role. Any film that promotes a feminist worldview. Hollywood needs it.

You recently did an art project called "perform/reperform" inspired by Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton I take it? Tell us about it.

Two photos from "Perform/RePerform" 2012

I am obsessed with certain actresses + performances. They enter into my conscious + I end up acting out the part in little ways day to day, whether its the voice or walk or what have you. This project was about that process. The emulation of a character, of an actress and of a moment. Based on my personal loves at that time. It is a scene(s) re-performed, documented + then re-photographed. But I'd also say that a good chunk of the reasoning behind it is my desire to promote my favorite actresses to a new audience. I love them so much, I want the Same for others. I'm an ultimate fangirl.  

Have you ever parted ways with someone because of your passion for movies?

That's yet to happen. But they'd have to know that when award season comes around, my priorities, thoughts and passions are firmly on the golden statues and nothing else!

I heard that.

 

 

Wednesday
Aug032011

Second Star on the Right: Joanna Lumley

I don't think I've ever mentioned Joanna Lumley on The Film Experience pages. I've liked her in movies on occassion and of course she was regularly LOL-worthy as oversexed overboozed "Patsy" in AbFab back in the day. But I would like to formally apologize right at this moment for her absence on TFE because her latest move has won my heart several times over. 

She's currently lending her celebrity to raise funds to turn Moat Brae in Dumfries, the inspirational birthplace (of sorts) for J.M. Barrie's immortal Peter Pan, into a children's literature center. He claims his time there was among the happiest in his life.

Lumley says

I want to help raise the profile of this admirable project so that Peter Pan fans from all over the world can support this wonderful restoration."

Honestly that is SO fitting and such a worthy cause and now I just want to hug her. If I had plenty of £ I would throw it like fairy dust at this project.