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




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 »

1397733525000-TheOppositeOfLoneliness-600

Carody Culver

A published afterlife: Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan looked set for literary stardom. For an aspiring writer, her credentials were so perfect they could have been lifted straight from fiction. Read more »

warning

SA Jones

‘Weather is never just weather’: Sophie Cunningham’s Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy

We’ve had national disasters in the forty years since Cyclone Tracy, but Tracy’s iconic status in the national consciousness endures. 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 »

1398878478_lea-michele-brunette-ambition-zoom

Julia Tulloh

How to be beautiful, according to Lea Michele

Lea Michele’s new book, Brunette Ambition, is what you might expect from a fairly young television and musical theatre star. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Julia Tulloh

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 »

wetlands_poster

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Lucky Dip Diving: an approach to film festivals

I wanted to let go of the grasping desire to watch everything and be part of every conversation. But with the Melbourne International Film Festival in full swing, anxieties arise again. 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 »

hbo-silicon-valley

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Silicon Valley will eat itself

  At a certain point in the lifespan of any subculture, fiction and reality start to blur. Members of the subculture begin to model their character and appearance on the idealised representations of themselves they read about or see on screen, and the loop continues until nobody … Read more »

inbox

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Death to the Inbox

The primary source of our ‘email problem’ seems to lie in our belief that email is a vastly richer and more capable medium than it is. 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 »

detail

Danielle Binks

Fan-Girling Over Super Heroines

The testosterone-fuelled BIFF! BANG! KAPOW! of classic comics can seem uninviting, filled with spandex-clad men and swooning damsels who hold limited appeal outside the stereotypical 18-35 year-old male demographic. But things are changing in the world of comics. Read more »

9780143305323

Danielle Binks

Australia Needs Diverse Books

The ‘We Need Diverse Books’ team is made up of authors, editors and publishers from North America, but the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag and campaign has reverberated in youth literature communities worldwide. 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 »

Jabberwocky1

Chad Parkhill

The carnival is over

Jabberwocky, scheduled to take place last weekend, was the kind of festival that wasn’t supposed to fail. Read more »

Robin Thicke

Chad Parkhill

Why has Robin Thicke’s Paula flopped?

What, exactly, has caused Paula to sell so poorly that it has already positioned itself as this year’s most memorable flop? 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 »

2014-07-03-theleftovers

Stephanie Van Schilt

TV pilots: The good, the bad and The Leftovers

With the wealth of shows on offer, committing to a new TV series can feel like a big deal. It’s often during a pilot episode that audiences determine whether the program is appealing enough to stick with for the long haul. 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 »