Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Giovanna Galetti's Eyebrows and Scarlett Johanssen's Arse

Giovanna Galleti's Eyebrows (with Harry Feist)

I went to two very contrasting films in the IFI last week:  Rome Open City and Under the Skin.  I hadn't seen Roberto Rossellini's much lauded movie before but I was not disappointed - it was entertainment all the way. Despite its neo-realist label this now seems pure melodrama - albeit in a convincingly gritty and war-damaged Rome.   It was made shortly after World War 2 ended.  It has plucky resistance fighters, brutal jack-booted invaders, a faithless femme fatale, Anna Magnani as the earth mother, a puckish priest, a sinister and effete Gestapo commander and there's even a predatory lesbian collaborator thrown in for fun. The latter is played with relish by Giovanna Galleti - if she'd a moustache she'd twirl it, but allows her eyebrows to do the talking instead.  In fact Anna Magnani does have a moustache but as she's the earthy Italian mother so twirling wouldn't have been apt for her. This movie was made before the exfoliation fascists took over so even the femme fatale sports armpit hair.

Under the Skin on the other hand is a piece of arty hokum with as many holes in the plot as Rab C. Nesbitt's vest.  But the cinematography is gorgeous and Scarlett Johanssen lights up the screen in every frame she's in - which is most of the movie. There are allusions to other films - and to directors such as Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch.  Here's a suggestion of 2001 a Space Odyssey, there's a reprise of the Elephant Man. All good fun. The juxtapositioning of the glamorous Johanssen with the ill-favoured denizens of Glasgow's mean streets is genius.  Also, they'll certainly need sub-titles in the US for the heavy duty Scottish accents.  I was lost most of the time. Johanssen spends a lot of the film in a state of undress and it's refreshing to see a heroine with a substantial womanly figure. While her chubbiness is  hardly Lena Dunhamesque, it is still a brave statement in these toned and torqued times.