Jonathan Glazer

Nicole Kidman in Birth

It’s a little too early to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Birth, a movie where “10 years later” has significance, but I’d like to get started on paying commemorative tribute to Jonathan Glazer‘s 2004 masterpiece for a few reasons. Each of these reasons is actually a new movie with some relevance to Birth, and while that makes it sound like the earlier movie is something so ahead of its time that it fits better among the output of 2014, the pertinence is mostly a coincidence. The first reason/movie, however, is rather obvious. Glazer’s first feature since Birth is currently in theaters, and it couldn’t be any more worth the wait. Outside of both movies beginning with a kind of natal moment for a main character and the way they could be aesthetically connected, reverse-sequentially, through snow-filled settings, there’s little similarity between the movies. The new one, Under the Skin, is about an alien disguised as a human woman (Scarlett Johansson) who predatorily lures men into a trap. Birth is about a little boy (Cameron Bright) who claims to be the reincarnation of the husband of a wealthy widow (Nicole Kidman). Her family thinks it’s all a ruse, maybe to predatorily lure the woman into some sort of financial trap.

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Scarlett Johansson in UNDER THE SKIN

There are great films and terrible films, and while there are far too many of the latter and the majority land somewhere in the middle no movie lover is suffering from a lack of quality cinema. But rarer than films we love are the ones that seep into the fleshy fibers of our brains and hearts and take up residency for an extended period of time. More than a simple memory they instead become fodder for active thoughts, things we mull over and re-experience again and again as we work through the film’s secrets and intentions. Under the Skin is one of those unforgettable movies that promises to stay with you long after the end credits have rolled. It spoils nothing to say that Scarlett Johansson plays an unnamed visitor from… elsewhere, and that she’s arrived in Glasgow, Scotland with a very specific mission. Specific, but not entirely clear. After relieving a seemingly paralyzed woman of her clothes and dressing in them herself, Johansson’s character (who we’ll call Milly going forward because why not) begins to prowl the streets of the city behind the wheel of a white panel van. She’s looking for men, the kind that won’t be missed anytime soon, to bring back to her ramshackle abode with the unspoken promise of sex. Instead Milly leads them hypnotically into an inky black morass that will be their doom. And then she goes out to do it all again.

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Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

No one could ever accuse Jonathan Glazer of opting for quantity over quality. The British filmmaker has made only three movies in the span of 14 years, including his latest, Under the Skin. During that time, and before he made his feature debut in 2000 with Sexy Beast, Glazer directed music videos for Radiohead, UNKLE, Massive Attack, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and more of your favorite bands. He’s also done commercials for Nike, Audi, Guinness and Motorola. Glazer has a résumé to brag about. He’s done well for himself, which is probably why our interview with him is at the Chateau Marmont, which smells of money. Maybe it’s all the 20-year-olds coming in and out with their Rolls-Royces that gives it that scent. Still, the rather cozy and surprisingly low-key hotel is an ideal place to speak with Glazer. And the 49-year-old director is in good spirits when we meet him. He’s proud of a very important fact: whether you like Under the Skin or not, he made the movie he wanted to make.

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under-the-skin

English director Jonathan Glazer has never shied away from the more off-kilter aspects of filmmaking, and his latest, Under the Skin, is no exception. Based on novelist Michel Faber’s book of the same name, the story centers on an alien named “Laura” (Scarlett Johannson), who preys on hitchhikers in Scotland. If the narrative remains true to the novel, what happens to these poor saps is pretty horrid, as their departure from this mortal coil is not mercifully speedy at all. Check out the red-band teaser trailer below:

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Under the Skin

After first being introduced to us via a truly puzzling little teaser trailer, Jonathan Glazer‘s Under the Skin is still a bit of a head-scratcher in it’s full-length trailer form. But it’s that strangeness that makes this watch so mesmerizing. Scarlett Johansson, as we have learned, is an alien bombshell who drives around Scotland in her mystery van looking for foolish men to lure in with her charms. Once they’re thoroughly seduced by her Attractive Human Woman Form, she feasts upon the men and presumably bathes in their sad male tears. It’s what keeps her hair so shiny. The film is based on the novel by Michel Faber of the same name, so there’s the place to go for more details about why she’s after Scottish men specifically, or even why she’s been sent to this planet in the first place. This trailer isn’t giving up much else. Visually, though, it’s a fascinating look into a bizarre sci-fi thriller where it seems that the sky is perpetually darkened and something sinister’s about to happen around every corner. Then again, I’ve never been to Scotland so this might not be Glazer’s doing. Johansson also does “alien trying to be human” right by wearing a fur coat to the beach and looking supremely uncomfortable in a night club. Check out the trailer for yourself here:

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