Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Film

Size Matters

by Rochelle Siemienowicz , June 12, 2014Leave a comment

Under the Skin

 

I met a man the other day who doesn’t own a television or a DVD player. He’s been broke for years and can’t remember the last time he went to the cinema, either. But he loves movies and watches a lot of them (all downloaded illegally) on his little old Mac computer screen. He asked me for suggestions. What should he look out for?

Uncharacteristically, I was loathe to give movie advice. I realised it would be a tragedy for him to view these particular films – the ones that have rocked my world and touched my soul in recent months – in such a reduced and tinny form. They’d be ruined. Movies like Paolo Sorrentino’s soulful Italian masterpiece, The Great Beauty, which should be seen in widescreen and with surround sound to get the full effect of a hedonist’s melancholy wanderings around modern-day Rome. Or Richard Linklater’s stunning epic, Boyhood, filmed over 12 years with the same cast, tracking the growth of a boy in fast-forward motion, an emotionally devastating process that should not be interrupted for snacks or naps (though at 166 minutes you’ll probably have to pee). Then there’s Jonathan Glazer’s eerie, seductive thriller, Under the Skin, which must be viewed in velvet blackness to feel its full mysterious effect.

The Internet is a-babble with critics telling us that we’re watching films wrong – whether it’s because our spanking new HD TVs stuff up the picture quality; or because we’re too gutless to sit through ‘difficult’ films. This is not one of those articles intended to make you feel inferior about the size of your screen. Instead, it’s a reminder that some films are truly worth the extra travel and cost of seeing them in the cinema.

Under the Skin is a prime example. Directed and co-written by Glazer (Birth, Sexy Beast), who adapted the script loosely from Michael Faber’s novel of the same name, the story follows an unnamed alien (Scarlett Johansson) who adopts the curvaceous form of a young English woman. In black wig and tight jeans, she drives around Scotland in a van, picking up men by asking for directions, luring them into an inky black fate. Johannson’s performance as a predatory creature pretending to be sexy, is a revelation – and also able to be read as a fascinating comment on her own public persona.

To describe more of Under the Skin would be to spoil the experience. The confusion and the puzzle are part of the pleasure. But it’s not the challenging plot that stays with you long after you’ve left your seat. It’s the engulfing sensory experience of being in the dark alone, a giant screen in front of you and loud speakers all around; of being subjected to the combination of an inventive aural soundscape filled with mechanical rumblings and screeches, as well as a haunting bolero-style seduction score (composed by Mica Levi). Add in the alienating yet naturalistic cinematography, much of it captured in stealth, by DP Daniel Landin, and you’ve got a startling experience that’s in the same league as 2001: A Space Odyssey (but don’t let that put you off if you’re not a fan).

Bigger isn’t always better, but some films will open themselves up to you and pour themselves out in new ways when you see them on a cinema screen. In some cases it’s obvious which films those are – 3D extravaganzas like Gravity, monster movies like Godzilla, the widescreen classics like Lawrence of Arabia and Once Upon a Time in the West, and the works of big screen experimentalists like Terence Mallick and David Lynch. But even some little Australian gems – survival thriller Canopy and horror film The Babadook, have sound design so essential to their storytelling that they’ll give you something special when you leave home to see them.

So, to my friend watching films on his laptop, I’ll treat you to a couple of freebies; show you what you’re missing out on.

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a Melbourne-based film journalist, reviewer and editor. 

ACO logo




22454066

Jacinta Halloran

Medicine as Art: An interview with Terrence Holt

Internal Medicine turns on its head the commonly-held wisdom of power and control in the doctor-patient relationship. Holt’s doctor-narrator is conflicted and questioning, often exhausted and confused. His writing aims for something less slick than the sanitised television offerings of medical melodramas, where ‘what entertains usually falsifies.’ Read more »

2303400407_d25f8d8b8a_o

James Tierney

What Australian Literary Conversation?

I am concerned about the absence of a performative aspect of criticism in the public domain, which doesn’t necessarily assume specialised knowledge or recognised allegiances, but is prepared to discuss what criticism is. Read more »

9781847086273

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their picks

Is your to-read pile looking particularly uninspiring at the moment? Or maybe you’ve just finished a novel and aren’t quite sure what to read next. Never fear! The staff from Readings bookshop have your back. Here they share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

gbbo

Rebecca Shaw

Crumbling the Great Wall of Heteronormative Assumption

You are just there to see a doctor, or have a haircut, when all of a sudden you are reminded that you are different. You are forced to come out to strangers over and over again. You are required to either refute their assumptions and risk having an awkward or unpleasant discussion with a stranger about your personal life, or you are forced to lie. Read more »

6314976-3x2-940x627

Rebecca Shaw

Out of Alignment: Religion, politics and priorities

Throughout your (hopefully long) life, you will often be forced to prioritise one thing over another thing.
Because we make these decisions based on what we personally think is important or morally right, the things other people choose to prioritise can be confusing or upsetting to us. I find this happens regularly when bearing witness to what some religious people or religious groups choose to place importance on. Read more »

Rebecca Shaw

TERF War: Transphobia in the LGBTQI community

I started to realise that I was ‘not like other girls’ about the time I hit puberty. From that point on I underwent an extensive and daunting process to emerge from my closeted cocoon into the beautiful lesbian butterfly I am today. An important part of that development was realising – mostly via the Internet (or very occasionally through people I met in real life) – that there were people like me all over the world. Read more »

anne-dorval-and-antoine-olivier-pilon-in-xavier-dolans-mommy

Joanna Di Mattia

All About His Mother: Xavier Dolan’s fierce women

Xavier Dolan has created an exuberant body of cinema that privileges women (and others on the margins) as complex, chaotic beings. Dolan’s fierce mothers are cleaved from the pedestal that so much of cinema places them on, so that they may dig around in the dirt that is life. Read more »

every-day-2012-005_cmyk

Anwen Crawford

Being Boring: Passing time with the films of Michael Winterbottom

What does it mean to film the same performers over the course of years, to have them age in front of the camera? Everyday pays careful attention to boredom, and at moments it manages to capture a sense of time that is both elusive and profound. Read more »

flock_roof

Anwen Crawford

Don’t be Sheepish: Why Ewe Should See Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie is the latest feature-length production from Aardman Animations (the folk who brought us Chicken Run), and it is a delight. Borrow a young relative for cover if you must, but believe me, you are not too cool for a kid’s movie when it’s this much fun. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

2011 Jesse Knish Photography

Katie Williams

Pilgrimage to San Francisco: Power and Privilege at the Game Developers Conference

Attendees talk about the annual pilgrimage to the Game Developer’s Conference with the same reverence as a child’s first trip to Disney World. It’s the Magic Kingdom for adult nerds. The weeks leading up to the conference are full of discussion about which parties to attend, and how best to make an impression on people who could be useful in furthering your game development career. Read more »

jakobson0052

Katie Williams

Storytelling vs. interactivity: What makes a highbrow game?

What makes a game ‘highbrow’? We don’t have solid criteria for deciding conclusively which games are masterpieces, and which are just dumb, explosive fun. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »

ForceM6609

Jane Howard

Witness and Connection at Melbourne’s Dance Massive

In a city where it feels not a day goes by without an arts festival, or three, happening, Melbourne’s Dance Massive is resolutely unique. Australia’s largest dance festival is by necessity heavily reliant on Melbourne-based companies and shows that will go on to tour independently of the festival. The festival is undeniably of, and for, the dance sector in Melbourne. Read more »

16475519129_bb489cf4ce_o

Jane Howard

Creative Space: The secret power of community theatres

Theatre is inextricably tied to space, and the best theatre spaces become more than buildings. They become communities of like-minded people: of artists and of audience members, intermingling their ideas and their lives. Read more »