Under the Skin

At last, a darkly shiny new collectible from Jonathan Glazer, that tantalizingly infrequent director of films, including Sexy Beast and Birth, and great specialist of highly charged movie moods. This one’s a mesmerizing and at times utterly chilling fable of sorts, in which Scarlett Johansson inhumanly roams around Glasgow picking up men and bringing them back to her place. Let’s just say it’s a very dark place. Adapted by Glazer and Walter Campbell from Michel Faber’s novel, whose expository details it discards, Under the Skin plays out as a welcome if willful throwback to arty vintage sci-fi that doesn’t care to explain itself. With great help from Mica Levi’s brooding-freakout score, Glazer moves fluidly between naturalism and stylization, transcending the alien-seductress trope by interrogating it cinematically. We behold the movie star as a covert and terrifying otherworldly predator, her victims reportedly including several non-actors who, at first, didn’t even know they were being filmed. (For this, Glazer’s team invented a tiny concealable camera.) What does it all say about us? Under the Skin is sure to leave some viewers feeling fed up, but others will curl with glee at its finely calibrated fusion of genre cool and metaphysical inquiry. Or you can just see it as a travelogue: Scotland never looked so sinister and gorgeous.