Tag Archives: Jonathan Glazer

Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin

People often say that Jonathan Glazer‘s Under The Skin is one of those films you’ll either love or hate, and while I understand the stark precautionary sentiment, I think there’s more shades of grey than a knee-jerk reaction towards either side of the fence. I loved what the film did with sound, atmosphere, imagery and expectations. I hated how it made me feel overall. Detached. Alienated. Confused. Uneasy. Cornered by otherworldly stimuli. For what it’s worth, that’s most likely the intention behind the whole thing, and I applaud the genius in achieving a goal of exquisite discomfort, but I doubt anyone could blame me when I say that it’s a film I’ll watch once, and only once. Glazer goes for less of a conventional narrative and more of a dread inducing screensaver aesthetic, moving glacially through a series of events that seem to be both cohesive and just out of reach, toying with audience perception for a mood piece that is the cinematic equivalent to a particularly intense bout of disassociation. Scarlett Johannesson is as scary and sexy as one could get, playing some type of alien creature on a quiet, merciless rampage in various areas of Scotland. Seducing, destroying and stockpiling the pilfered essences of several unfortunate dudes who wander into her proverbial spiderweb, she, or rather ‘it’, eventually experiences some kind of inner awakening and undergoes a paradigm shift clearly brought on by her ongoing affiliation with those strange and sneaky creatures called human beings. If I’m being vague, it’s on purpose; there’s no gift wrapped cliff-notes for this baby, it’s something that makes its imprint on you in a language too illusory to impart in words. I’m reminded of other science fiction films like Darren Aronofsky’s Pi or E. Elias Merhige’s Begotten in the sense that most of what we see, hear and feel is not pleasing to the senses at all. Many heady sci-fi films are engineered to elicit positive emotional response from an audience, via a cathartic score, engaging production design and very human stories. Films like this, and the aforementioned, go out of their way to come across as cold, uncomfortable and stranded in a mist of off-putting hysteria. It’s a bold move whenever it happens. In the case of this film, it’s to give us a sense of what it must be like for an alien being to be thrown in with our lot here on earth. From the shrill, rhythmically jagged score by Mica Levi, to Scarlett’s alluring menace, to the murky nocturnal photography to the half mumbled daze of near incoherent dialogue, it’s all there to move us several planes away from ‘normal’, and get under our skin (hey that’s the title). Does it work? One hundred percent, and kudos, as it’s as scarily disorienting as they come. Is it pleasant moviegoing? Miles from it, it’s a beast built to provoke a reaction, and if you don’t like what it bristles up in you, you won’t hastily rewatch it anytime soon. I know I won’t.

-Nate Hill

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Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast


Whenever someone asks me to provide the showcase example of the actor’s process done as close to perfection as one can get, I direct them towards one earthquake of a performance: Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. It takes a considerable amount of work to fully realize a character, bring them to life, make them seem genuine, lifelike and idiosyncratic so as to win over the viewer and elicit the modernized ‘putting down the iPhone to engage with full attention’ reaction’, but Kingsley’s rabid London hoodlum Don Logan is just that creation, and then some. He’s not even the lead character either, yet royally steals the film, which earned him an oscar nomination. The film itself couldn’t be more brilliant either, cooked up via a stinging, gorgeously verbose script by Louis Mellos and David Scinto, glossy wit from director Jonathan Glazer and actors who go the extra mile to give a fairly arch story some tangible depth. Ray Winstone, reliably superb, is Gal Dove, a boisterous ex criminal who has retired to sunniest Spain with his sexy wife (Amanda Redman) and best friend (Cavan Kendall). Retirement is tricky for someone with Gal’s past though, and soon his past barges through the front door in the form of Kingsley’s Logan, a terrifying bald beast of a man that would give any sensible person cause to immediately run and hide in the nearest cupboard. From the moment he shows up, heralded by bad dreams that plague Gal and a literal boulder that cascades down the hill into his villa pool uninvited (hello metaphor), things go from worse to hellish. Logan isn’t the type of man to take no for an answer, and is a complete and total nightmare to deal with even before Gal tries to shut him down. Logan wants him for a job in London, organized by shark of a mob boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane, creepy as all hell), but Gal has no interest leaving the sunny shores and just wants the nutter out of his house. Any time Kingsley is on screen you can feel the tension crackle in the air. He’s the unvarnished hyena to Winstone’s aloof, relaxed teddy bear, a force to be reckoned with and feared. His use of profanity lands like a backhander from Dwayne Johnson, his body language is erratic enough to induce seizures and that cobra gaze could melt adamantium. He’s the penultimate antagonist and raises the stakes to the stratosphere, berating every person in sight and maintaining a cold, detached veneer that’s more than slightly disconcerting. Not to mention the fucker talks to himself in the mirror, which alone is cause for worry. While the story takes place in our world, there’s an off kilter, demonically surreal undertone that derails genre conventions. The artfully dirty, near poetic screenplay, stark visions of some sort of evil Chernobyl rabbit thing, lurid editing transitions, whatever it is it’s hard to pin down or describe, but you feel miles from your comfort zone and ever so slightly removed from our solar system while watching this odd, scary, compelling and uniquely peculiar piece of work. 

-Nate Hill

Episode 28: JONATHAN GLAZER’S SEXY BEAST

Ep28

We get back to our roots with a REGULAR episode dedicated to a single film with two top fives.  This time we talk about Jonathan Glazer’s SEXY BEAST and top five Ben Kingsley performances and top five English gangster films.  We plan on doing more of these regular podcasts in the future, hope you guys enjoy!