Got pages of mostly illegible notes re: Under the Skin, but not much time to collate. Rather, like Snowman and the Bandit, I got a long way to go and a short time to get there. So, some quick bulletpoint responses, anyway:
1) We all want to be David Bowie, of course. Or, we all want Walter Tevis to have written us, anyway. And, no, sadly, regrettably, unforgivably, I haven’t read the novel Under the Skin is working from. But what I imagine is some amalgamation of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer via Jennifer Egan’s story “Black Box.” Though of course I want there be some Brother from Another Planet in there, as well. Eyeballs-as-spycams is where it’s at, alien-wise.
2) Species, Splice, Lifeforce, and all the many-many different kinds of women that apparently come from the moon: it’s never with good intentions, is it? Is this story tendency expressing some male insecurity? Is ‘space’ somehow coded ‘female’—this not unphallic ship penetrating it—but it’s so basically unknowable that it comes back, gives mankind a taste of its (his?) own medicine? I don’t know. I’ve never tried to write one of those stories. Maybe there’s something else making all these women so killer-mean.
3) All horror has a cautionary aspect. The warning here is that, if she looks too good to be picking you up off the side in the road in a giant cargo van, well, you’re probably already dead.
4) We earthlings are either endlessly fascinated by aliens who can ‘pass’ as us, who can mimic us, or else special effects crews are very, very good at convincing the story department that no, really, the scene is better if there’s no tail, no head-antennae. And I think they’re right. I mean, it’s the old Cold War paranoia that your neighbor might not really be your neighbor. But it’s still got some play, too. And some teeth as well.
5) To those who have already seen it (meaning, this could be a spoiler, this is a spoiler, look away, go to #6 already, quit reading this, I’m just making it long in case you’re indecisive, need a moment for your good instincts to kick in): is this basically the same premise as Phantasm?
6) What if the aliens came here and we were inscrutable? What if it turns out we’re the ocean on/of Solaris?
7) Aliens and robots are only interesting when they deviate from their mission/programming.
8) Under the Skin isn’t a talky movie by any stretch of any imagination. Which is fine. I can do meaningful stares, I can pick up meaning from other junk. However. Having the character lounge around in a fog bank while she’s in her extreme state of indecision? A bit much, perhaps? Maybe in the novel it turns out that suspended water molecules properly refract a homing signal or fry telepathy or somesuch. Which: fine, wonderful. I hope so. Please.
9) So the supposition here, it’s that if a vast alien intelligence, to whom we’re amoebas on fleas on dogs, pretty much, if that intelligence decided to make the perfect woman as bait to lure in male specimens . . . now put some quatation marks on that, and suspect that that had to be the pitch they hit Johansson with, yes? I can’t imagine a more flattering role.
10) Talking Scarlett Johansson: it’s nice to see her, for a moment, back at a booth in a diner. Seems kind of like that’s where it all started.
11) A good story to read as prep for this is Neil Gaiman’s “How to Talk to Girls at Parties.”
12) Another, you’ve already read, of course: “They’re Made out of Meat.”
13) There’s a transformation/unmasking sequence here that’s completely worth the price of admission.
14) Don’t feel bad if the dialect is very Snatch, and hard to track for lazy American ears; either you adapt or it gets better—or there’s little enough dialogue that you don’t really miss anything either way.
15) Chris Carter has been warning us about black oil and aliens for a long time, now. When is anybody finally going to have listened?
16) This has to be intentional—and I’m putting this as the last bulletpoint as it’s spoilery, so please skip if you haven’t seen it: when the, let’s say ‘logger’ enters the scene and attempts a rape, then this has to be commentary on the sex scene that just happened, doesn’t it? Which was just as uncomfortable, as there was zero-minus-ten consent. There wasn’t even the sense that she could consent. Which I think is maybe supposed to get us back on her ‘side,’ after the beach-scene, which pretty much just destroys you?
17) Okay, the real last bulletpoint: not sure I completely trust the end. Or, it’s a very art-house, thematic way to close it. Which isn’t what I’m prepared for at the cineplex. I think the story would have been better served with a gesture we could interpret as hopeful in some way. Don’t hit us over the head, like the fog did, but take a risk, I say. I’m never a fan of a safe ending. Much more interested in beautiful failures than the middle of the road.