Tag Archives: Rumpus

Women Who Prey

18 Apr

Film Review Under the Skin

Much will be said about the women and their use of sex as a means to an end in Lars von Trier’s two part Nymphomaniac and Jonathan Glazer’s alluring new film,Under the Skin. Sex in both endeavors is a must; an addiction in the former and a tool for sustenance in the latter. But in both cases the women are driven by something beyond their control and as a result, they prey.

Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, with Stacy Martin as the young incarnation), the insatiable protagonist in von Trier’s pandering provocation, embarks on her first hunt aboard a train wearing gleefully self-described “fuck me” garb. She’s looking to achieve a series of bathroom conquests and baits the men, packed like sardines into cramped traveling compartments, with fluttering doe-like eyes as she requests help in finding the washroom, and later, for her crowing achievement, settles on a more stately married man in first class. He is so morally affixed and committed that to break that bond will yield the greatest conquest and the most points in an ongoing game of sexual one-upmanship with a fellow train cruiser. After swaying the reluctant mark,  he passively empties himself into her mouth. The man is changed, drained, and emotionally shaken from the transgression he consciously wished no part of until mid-ejaculation. For Joe the act is simply a tally notch, a big bull buffalo on the savanna that her sleek apex feline sussed out, isolated, and brought down. How the man returns to his wife, or if his life is disrupted from the interlude, is of no concern.

In the wild, the act of predation is cold, calculating and necessary. There is nothing civil or remorseful about it. While Joe does it to feed her id or inner dysfunction, Scarlett Johansson’s intoxicating incarnation in Under the Skin, largely nameless but identified as Laura in the credits, does it out of rote need. She’s not of our world but something supernatural, a celestial traveler who has been transfigured to look like us, and on something of a farming mission to harvest human flesh for her ilk. The urgency of her assignment renders palpable and strong as she patrols the streets of Glasgow in an austere white van asking for directions (uncannily similar to Joe’s locomotive panderings).  Continue reading


24 Apr



April 24th, 2013

The dictionary defines memory as “the ability to recall.” For a computer, it’s an exact science when regurgitating programs, data, and facts, but for humans, that process can be ephemeral, flawed, and selective. It’s also an essential component of our existence, as our memories and emotional attachment to our pasts define who we are; it’s been argued that memories, along with the pillars of civilization, war and sex as a pleasure sport, are the defining cornerstones that separate mankind from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Human memories and their mercurial, inexact nature also make for high drama in life and story, most especially in film. What if you couldn’t remember your name, or you blacked out during the critical moment of a murder or robbery? What if, as in Rashomon, different players’ POVs of a series of events result in diametric outcomes, onuses, and liabilities? There’s immediate conflict and intrigue, but to make the payoff and to sell the feasibility of it throughout—and often through the eyes of an unreliable narrator—requires work, artistry, and agility. Take Lenny in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending Memento, or Dr. Edwardes in Hitchcock’s Spellbound. One has short term memory loss, the other amnesia, and what they know in their impaired states of mind is all the audience knows. Their stories build one foggy bread crumb at a time with many false steps and sudden revelations along the way. Each new reveal, true or not, ripples through the audience’s understanding of what has transpired, halting, upending, and enriching it. In Memento, we yearn to know who killed Lenny’s wife, and in Spellbound, the world sits rapt to see if the virtuous Gregory Peck (well, his character, Dr. Edwardes) is actually capable of murder. The gradual reparation of the splintered memories takes the viewer teasingly close to the truth, and then, in the denouement, the final curve masterfully reshapes and cements everything that came before it.  Continue reading