Archive for June, 2014

I had not heard about Under the Skin until it was out, but I didn’t have much to do Monday night since Carol teaches until nine and I knew she wouldn’t see the film in six billion light years anyway.

As I assured the bored ticket girl on my way out, “You will love this. It’s definitely art.” Yes, it is, and that is why, I predict—despite 82 percent approval by a wide range of critics; paired with only 62 percent of viewer approval—it will not sell.

I am not too concerned with the welfare of director, investors, or even Scarlett Johansson, and America will bumble along on its commercial wave, at least for a time. It is, though, unfortunate that more of us will not understand/appreciate artistry brought to the big screen, the most accessible form of public art. I think there may be cult following, star following, and a few cinematography-lovers touting the film. A week or two should tell. Me? I am recommending Under the Skin only to family and friends who think about the art of film.

What is to like? The story is shown. It is never told. There is no foreword, introduction, or framework. The viewer must dive in—please, not too deep—and see what happens. Don’t go out until the last scene which explains everything but answers no questions.

Art (and psychology) though it be, I am too embarrassed to recommend Nymph()maniac either Part One or Part Two to anyone. Still, though, it is art. It cannot abide by the rules of American cinematic art and, therefore, will not succeed here. The films are too brutal and for all the nudity and sex hardly lascivious enough to sell well. Americans seem to prefer violence that cannot be mistaken for reality, and sex that cannot be misread as anything but love however misdirected.

The brutality—especially forward in Part Two—is made real. As she related the story of her sordid past, Charlotte Gainsbourg lies or sits in bed during the present of the movie, her face bedecked with blood and bruises inflicted in the alleyway outside the two room, monastic dwelling of her philosopher-fisher king-savior-victimizer, Stellan Skarsgård. The beating-evidence is during both two parts a grim reminder of where the road leads our wayward nymph.

As director Lars von Trier does so well in his films, this art strips bare not just the body, the privacy, the secrecy of a person, as is clear in the penultimate scene—where in Gainsbourg’s adopted daughter (Mia Goth) sexually performs with Gainsbourg’s very first “lover,” Jerome (Shia LeBeouf) then pisses on “mother” who beaten down has witness all aforesaid from the pavement—but cleaves the heart as well. Nothing less would drive the demon, sex-obsession, to abstinence.

It is hard to watch, but no more difficult to see than what von Trier is writing about, the West’s on-goring experiments with sexuality. I may have that connection wrong, but, surely, hard as it is to say, ”Nymph()maniac is art.