With Lady Pam De Graff
THE DOUBLE (2013) independent
WRITTEN BY: Richard Ayoade, and Avi Korine based upon the novell by Fyodor Dostoevsky
DIRECTED BY: Richard Ayoade
FEATURING: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn
TAGS: black comedy
RATING: 7 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT: A meek suitor faces new challenges when his dashing double steals his would-be girlfriend and takes credit for his efforts at work.
COMMENTS: Since we've been exploring doppelganger movies this past month, I want to mention The Double (2013), a gloomy, sardonic chiller.
The Double stars Jesse Eisenberg as Simon James, a dowdy, mousy data clerk, marginalized by his boss and co-workers, ignored by his love interest, Hannah, (Mia Wasikowska) and criticized by his family. His world turns upside down when a new employee arrives who's his physical duplicate, but his psychological opposite. The interloper is charming, assertive, and immediately popular. Even his name, James Simon, is an inverse of Simon's name. James promptly takes Simon into his confidence, manipulating and exploiting him so as to court Hannah and assume praise for Simon's professional efforts.
As their misunderstandings and collisions mount, Simon and James square off, resorting to attempts at one-upmanship, with varying results. While The Double is a thriller, it's also darkly wry, full of existential allegory, and wrought with frustrating ironies and unfortunate coincidences reminiscent of Martin Scorsese's 2004 black comedy, After Hours. Departing from The Dostoevsky novel on which it's based, The Double focuses less on Simon's professional rivalry with James, and more on their romantic competition. As it does so, The Double become less and less comic as it barrels into a morass of ambiguity, finally succumbing to tragedy.
Fans of such films as Brazil and The Hudsucker Proxy will enjoy The Double's production design, a blend of noir elements and art deco steam-punk. Simon's world is a mixture of industrial Manchester and 1930's technologically-challenged Russia; it's a frustrating, malfunctioning labyrinth of imposing smoke stacks, steaming radiators, rattling pipes, dripping faucets and banks of obsolete office equipment, all presented in perpetual urban night ala Alex Proyas's 1998 Dark City.
You can also watch this movie streaming on Amazon HERE!
THE SKIN (2013) UK
WRITTEN BY: Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer based upon the novel by Michel Faber
DIRECTED BY: Jonathan Glazer
FEATURING: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Dougie McConnell, Kevin McAlinden
RATING: 9 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT: An alien cruises Glasgow in a panel van, picking up single men who won't be missed.
COMMENTS: Dispensing with the backstory and black satire of Michel Faber's offbeat novel, screenwriter Walter Cambell and director Jonathan Glazer convey simple horror with artful cinematic formalism, telling with pictures, a story which is mostly unfettered by more than incidental dialogue. In fact, the screen adaptation of the story is so simplified that less adventurous viewers will yearn for more detail to flesh in the epithelium.
Under The Skin opens with an abstract, symbolic sequence of images. The viewer is expected to do a little work, using his imagination to interpret a genesis and a transportation. It's quite clever because it means Under The Skin will not become dated as quickly as so many other sci-fi yarns. Without a speculative 2013 conception of what an alien spaceship should look like, or how an alien dons a simulation of human form, Under The Skin communicates the arrival of our protagonist, an alien femme fatale (never named in the film, but called Isserley in the novel) who assumes an alluring facade which just so happens to be sexy Scarlett Johansson.
After assembling some tarty club-wear and procuring the sort of panel van with which popular culture associates predatory criminals, Isserley is off to make the rounds of Glasgow, picking up young men whom brief, flirtatious banters indicate won't likely be missed. This is for good reason, because when Isserley seduces the ego-prone studs, they fall parcel to her sinister agenda which is presented with such stylish design that we almost need to rub our eyes and take a second look to comprehend it.
Johansson meanwhile, in a state of undress and semi-undress throughout, glides across an inter-dimensional plane as her sexuality hypnotizes and draws along would-be suitors like some pornographic Pan's flute. Nude, but in shadow, Director Jonathan Glazer cloaks Johannson's form through multiple gradations of rich greys in a black and white tonal range, as if to present her as the lustrous still life subject of a study of luminosity and Cimmerian shade.
Coasting about in her rolling stag trap, continuing unfettered to ensnare quite a succession of amorous paramours, Isserley's mission is merciless, yet she reveals that she's more than a mere unthinking agent. As in a Greek tragedy, Isserley's Achilles heel might be her emerging sense of human empathy.
Under The Skin is a different kind of science fiction horror movie. There are no laser-shooting spaceships, bug-eyed, head chomping aliens, or elite storm troopers. Under The Skin is an art film, quiet, thought-provoking and almost philosophical. Without explicit gore or violence, Glazer forges more lofty literary elements into a sublime horror which is as gruesome and shocking as it is pensive and poetic.
You can also watch this film currently streaming for FREE on Amazon!
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