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




Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

The Fictional Woman

Carody Culver

Learning from semi-charmed lives

When famous public figures take a step further and use their personal experience as a literary vehicle for exploring wider social issues, I can happily check my celebrity memoir prejudice at the bookshop door. Read more »

My Salinger Year

Carody Culver

Searching for Mr Salinger

Joanna Rakoff’s book is ‘the truth, told as best [she] could’, of her year as an assistant at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies, a job for which many an Arts graduate would sell a kidney. Read more »

editing

Carody Culver

Giving voice to a silent profession

The role editors play in the process of ushering new writing into the world is both vitally important and strangely overlooked. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

Douglass books

Julia Tulloh

High fantasy writers who aren’t George RR Martin, and who are also women

‘Tolkien is the greatest burden the modern fantasy author must labour under and eventually escape from if they are to succeed.’ So wrote Australian high fantasy writer, Sara Douglass, a decade and a half ago. Replace Tolkien with George RR Martin, and one might say the same principle applies today. Read more »

Conchita Wurst

Julia Tulloh

Why Eurovision 2014 was a bit disappointing

No one watches Eurovision to discover surprise new talent, or even to hear good singing. I watch it for the kitschy, pop-tastic visual onslaught which rarely fails to assault viewers. Read more »

Happy Christmas

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Joe Swanberg’s Real Women

In Happy Christmas, the female characters are a pleasure to watch, largely because they’re so familiar in life and so rarely depicted on screen. Read more »

Gabrielle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Beyond tics, limps and prosthetics

Think of a disability – mental or physical – and there’s sure to be a film that features it. What about giving big roles to actors who actually live with the disability they’re depicting? Now that would be authentic. Read more »

Under the Skin

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Size Matters

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. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

filter

Reality vs. Instagram

It’s been over three years since Instagram launched, and we’re still not sure whether processing a photograph might be considered akin to doctoring a memory. Read more »

2014 Budget

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Could we crowdfund the dole?

Following the announcement of the 2014 budget, the director of a leading arts organisation posed a question on Facebook: ‘What recourse do the people have to stop these changes? What are next steps? Would be curious to know of any other effective measures to get the message across… apart from complaining on Twitter.’ Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

A Little Pretty Pocket Book

Danielle Binks

Who run the book world? GIRLS!

‘It’s no wonder boys aren’t reading – the children’s book market is run by women.’ So claimed the headline of an April article in The Times.

*Cue Liz Lemon eye-roll* Read more »

The Fault in Our Stars

Danielle Binks

The Fault in the Cult of John Green

I like John Green as much as the next YA-aficionado. I’ve snot-cried through his books, and chuckled over his YouTube videos. But now it’s time to talk about the media-led oversaturation of John Green, and the insulting way he’s been heralded as the saviour of young adult fiction. Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

The Knife

Chad Parkhill

Never Settled: The Knife’s Shaken-Up Versions

Making live electronic music engaging is a difficult task, and The Knife’s Silent Shout tour shows a band committed to breaking the visual cliché of performers standing still behind banks of electronic equipment. Read more »

Tori Amos

Chad Parkhill

Loving (and hating) Tori Amos

Tori Amos is hardly to blame for the existence of her fans’ expectations, nor for their disappointment when her work does not live up to them – but that doesn’t prevent that disappointment from feeling intensely personal. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »

deadwood-03-1024

Zora Sanders

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Zora Sanders defends Highbrow TV

I’m going to be honest with you. I feel a little guilty being gifted highbrow TV as a subject to defend. Highbrow TV doesn’t need a defender! It’s a battle that has been won! Highbrow TV is downright fucking awesome and every single person reading this already knows it. Read more »