It was the never-ending shot of a forkful of chocolate cake that finally broke me.
The night prior, printed e-tickets in hand, our arrival at the cinema was met with commotion and the revelation of an apparent blackout.
It occurred to me midway through our screening the next night that no blackout had really transpired. An “incident” sure, but a blackout was just management’s way of concealing the true horror.
My imaginings involve a disgruntled cinema patron wielding an axe or, perhaps less gorily, an extra-pointy choc-top cone. Someone who got a whole twenty minutes into Under the Skin before attacking the screen. Attacking the ticket-rippers. Attacking the person who sold them the ticket without delivering due warning. Who left the cinema in a ruinous state of smeared ice cream and torn fabric.
Had I been armed, maybe I’d have done the same. Alas, I resorted to the pacifist alternative of wildly gesticulating at the screen and repeating, mantra-like, the same three-word review in my head “what the fuck?” (the same summary, needless to say, that my companion contributed).
The cinematic folly that a camera lingering on leaves/puddles/chocolate cake somehow constitutes “art” is perhaps worth a few hundred words. But I can’t do it. I can’t transport myself back to the belly of that 108 minute beast.
Instead, I’m interested in motive. My motive. About what led me to part with money and time here. Afterall, Under the Skin’s plot - an alien seductress preys on men on lonely Scottish roads – was a clear warning sign. I damn well hate aliens. I had an ex who believed that aliens had bred with humans leading to the birth of a variety of contemporary political figures. Aliens are the worst.
I’ve settled on two driving factors. 1. Title. 2. Personnel. Both, of course, being thoroughly stupid grounds to select a movie.
Years back a radical feminist associate told me about being on an escalator with her boyfriend; he was positioned two or three steps below her. “I want to be in your skin,” he’d said. She was mortified. So much so that she promptly began her life of lesbianism there on that moving staircase. Whether I concealed my furrowed brow I don’t know. I am however, quite sure that had I been the woman on that escalator, there would have been some mild - if admittedly dangerous - swooning.
So I was thinking of that story when I first read the title. That and how much I liked another skin-themed film - Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In. Maybe, just maybe – so my thought process went - Under the Skin could combine the warped and the sexy in one spectacular cinematic journey. Ha.
And then there was the equally suspect personnel motive.
Lost in Translation is one of my favourite films. More than that, it’s the first thing I think of if I need a pop culture item to explain my particularly branch of crazy. My love of this film has done all kinds of curious things to my brain. One is that it’s made me think I really love Scarlett Johansson films. And I really, really don’t. I love Scarlett in Japan. On the bed with Bill Murray. When he briefly touches her foot. Everything since is forgettable and I need to let it go. It’s time.
Not in the way I love Lost in Translation - let’s not go crazy - but also high on my list of favourites is Sexy Beast. That chaotic, energetic heist drama which solidified my mad love of Ray Winstone (particularly in that too-short-lived series Vincent). Sexy Beast was a great film and, its director, Jonathan Glazer, was the man behind Under the Skin. Glazer, needless to say, is who I’m pointing my finger at and demanding my refund.
So if title, if personnel are shoddy grounds for movie selection, what do we go by? Plot? The Grey - Liam Neeson fighting wolves in Alaska - seemed like utter malarkey. And yet was completely gripping. My list of like examples is long.
Perhaps there’s something to be said for going in blind, going in randomly, going in unarmed and just hoping for the best.