One of the hot-button conversations titles that emerged out of the 2013 fall festival circuit was Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, an oblique science fiction flick starring Scarlett Johansson. The enigmatic film, which is based on the novel by Michael Faber, turned itself into the love it-hate it film of the moment after playing the Telluride, Venice and Toronto film festivals. A24 Productions, the hip upstart distributor that’s no stranger to controversy thanks to previously releasing similarly divisive offerings like Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, snapped up U.S. distribution of the title and has now announced it will open in the U.S. on April 4, 2014, starting with a limited engagement.
The film, which stars Johansson as a alien preying upon and seducing local men in Scotland, marks Glazer’s return to the cinema after his impressive 2001 debut Sexy Beast (which earned Ben Kinglsey an Oscar nomination for his startling about face, decidedly non-Gandhi-like turn as a nihilistic gangster) and his 2004 follow-up Birth, which starred Nicole Kidman as a woman who comes to believe a ten-year-old is the reincarnated spirit of her deceased husband. The critical drubbing that Birth received upon its release may explain why it took Glazer nearly ten years to film a follow-up film. Birth has since been re-evaluated in the interim as a cult favorite.
Many reviewers were confounded by Under the Skin when it premiered, such as The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, who said, “Viewers willing to embrace a purely visual experience without dramatic, emotional or psychological substance will comprise an ardent cheering section, but the film provides too little for even relatively adventurous specialized audiences to latch onto,” while others like Time Out’s Dave Calhoun admired its audacity, calling the film, “An intoxicating marvel, strange and sublime.” American audiences will be able to decide for themselves next spring.
The film was written by Walter Campbell and Glazer, and outside of Johansson (on career high, having earned strong reviews and contentious awards talk for her voice over work in Spike Jonze’s Her, which is currently in theaters) stars mostly non-professional actors.