Jonathan Glazer

May 20, 2018

DJ Rambles About Revenge (2017)

INSUFFICIENT

Of all the subgenres in film, I’m kind of a sucker for a good revenge flick.  The Count Of Monte Cristo, Kill Bill, The Crow, Django Unchained, John Wick, Gladiator, The Outlaw Josey Wales.  They are all films that are the quickest to grab my attention in terms of understanding the needs of the character.  A tale of someone seeking justice without the hindrance of rules or morals.  One of the granddaddies of them all is the 1978 exploitation film, I Spit On Your Grave.  The film I’m reviewing here, Revenge, does not come close to the gory exploitiveness of an I Spit On Your Grave.  However, one can’t help but feel that Revenge is a bit of an echo to what I Spit On Your Grave left, for better or worse.

The glitzy colors mixed with the minimalism of narrative makes Revenge feel like a Jonathan Glazer film (Sexy Beast, Under The Skin) by way of the late great Tony Scott (Literally every film in the ’90s).  It actually comes to us from French director, Coralie Fargeat.  It tells the tale of a “party girl” named Jen who, while on vacation with her married boyfriend, suddenly finds herself attacked, left for dead, and miraculously saved allowing her to seek her vengeance.  And though it seems like I’m being vague to avoid spoilers, Revenge’s plot doesn’t get much more intricate than that.  Since we come directly into the middle of a pretty cliched situation between the characters and don’t know or learn much about them, there really isn’t much for me to cling to in terms of their goodness or badness.  This is a big part, for me at least, in getting the intended catharsis of any revenge film.

We know how good of a man and how despicable of a person Maximus and Commodus are respectively before the inciting incident and quest for revenge takes place in Gladiator.  Characters do nothing but talk about the character of John Wick and the reasons he got out and why it’s really bad that he’s coming in his film.  Same with William Munny in Unforgiven, or the Bride in Kill Bill, or John Creasy in Man On Fire, or Khan Noonien Singh in Wrath Of Khan.  Because we know so little about Jen her man and her man’s friends, we are left to just focus on the incident and titular revenge, weakening the overall catharsis.  In short, you care less because you’re given hardly anything to care about.  A stripped down revenge flick was likely Fargeat’s intention, along with the idea of just having a normal victimized female brutally confronting her attackers. (A clear commentary on the social climate we are living in today with victims of physical and psychological abuse fearlessly fighting back against their abusers.) 

As I alluded to before, the visuals of the film are really well done, as well as the accompanying synthy score by Robin Coudert.  Fargeat has a great eye, a flair for symbolic imagery and a bright future ahead of her.  As far as debut feature film outings go, Revenge is not bad at all.  It just left me feeling unfulfilled near the end, making it an INSUFFICIENT tale of revenge, in my opinion.  Maybe I have to watch it again.  Maybe you have to watch it too…and then tell me I’m wrong.

December 12, 2014

Under the Skin

Under the Skin – Alien
Sometimes I simply find it difficult to preface a film. So without further ado I’ll jump right into it. “Under the Skin” is one of those films that defies preconceptions and to be honest with you, just might be one of those films that will surprise many, if said many are willing to give it a chance and really try to understand an alien concept; a woman who is willing to sleep with a man from Scotland…..(I kid, I kid).
“Skin” is the story of a mysterious woman, played seductively and as sultry as ever by Scarlett Johansson. She drives a van, lures men into said van, and leads them to their doom. She is followed by a duo of mysterious motorcyclists who seem to clean up whatever mess she leaves behind. Things start to spin a little out of control after one of her encounters has her letting loose one of her quarries and going on the run. This is where they say, “the plot thickens.”
To go any further would be to do a disservice to the rest of the film, and going cold into “Skin” is one of the best things that you could do for this film. Director Jonathan Glazer, best known for “Sexy Beast” combines the best of art house cinema with trippy effects to create an engrossing, thinking-persons, science fiction weird-fest. What also stands out is the excellent score by Mica Levy, which plays like combination of Radiohead, Aphex Twin, and Wendy Carlos.

What I think has been missing from sci-fi flicks for a while is the notion that a setting needs to actually be alien, or cosmic, in order to make it a real sci-fi film. What I think is the most underrated aspect of “Skin” is the fact that the film takes place in Scotland. Let’s be honest, how much do we all really know about that land of Scotland outside of “Highlander” and Sean Connery. The landscapes and dialect almost become a character in and of itself and add a wrinkle to the story you wouldn’t expect.

Now the elephant in the room; the performance of Johansson, and I’m not just talking about her acting ability. One of the things that got a lot of attention leading up to the release of this film was the fact that Johannson shed all of her clothes for the role. While it’s nothing new for well-known actresses to ditch the clothes and show the goods, it’s a tad more newsworthy considering we are talking about an actress known for playing Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, her disrobing shouldn’t take away from her simple, yet effective performance. Most of her acting isn’t done through dialogue, but rather her movements and body language, and I might go as far as saying this is her best performance to date.

Another misconception is that “Skin” is simply a “Species” rip-off with stronger feminist undertones. Yes, on paper the fact that you have a mysterious women seeking men out and later dispatching them is pretty “Species”-like, but the comparisons can stop there. “Skin” features a very strong female character whose intentions aren’t truly discovered until close to the start of the third act, and even at that point we see that character’s intentions shift after a chance encounter with a specific character she picks up and is ready to dispatch. However, while I do enjoy the power that Johansson wields over her quarry, the third act flips the script and changes who may or may not be in control. I know some of this sounds cryptic, and that is the point. My intention is to entice you to watch a film that is certainly worthy of your attention and is an interesting take on male/female relations and interactions.

So, with that being said; should you see “Under the Skin?” See above please, of course you should. It’s one of the most original sci-fi films in quite a while, with a daring performance by Scarlett Johansson and some of the most “alien” cinematography of 2014. Sure we’ve gone to the far-reaches of the Marvel Universe, Earth under the rule of talking Apes, and even traveled back into Biblical-times on an ark, but the way Glazer created a practically alien world out of something that exists on Earth hasn’t been done since Peter Jackson created Middle-Earth with the help of New Zealand.

Fun Fact: In 1979, Robert Taylor claimed to have been nearly abducted by aliens in Dechmont Law in Livington, West Lothian, Scotland in what has been called the Dechmont Law Encounter.

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