Under the Spell


I actually finished my Thursday class right about 12:30 in the afternoon. Then I had lunch and went on to finish my finance homework at the library.

Before I started that, I took care of revising my sister’s college essay and my marketing group. Then I did the finance. While working on that, I checked if there was any midnight screening and saw that there was one for Jonathan Glazer’s Scarlett Johansson-starring Under The Skin at 8. Then I thought, “Yeah I can finish before that.” And I finally finished it. At 8.

It took me 7 hours to finish the bloody finance project and it made me miss the screening. To release the anger and frustration I went to the gym until midnight. That was why I woke up this morning like a walking dead.

But of course the highlight of today is seeing Under the Skin. But I’m not sure if it’s the movie that did it for me or because of my lack of sleep that doze me off.

I wrote what I did yesterday not to bore people, but to remind myself and trace back to the roots of this sleeping problem. Under the Skin was something. It opened beautifully and in a strange way, mind you I’ve never watched a Glazer film before.

Johansson wasn’t given a lot to do, although she was naked a lot and convincing enough playing an alien that seduces lonely single men as its preys. What was given a lot do was actually the score composer, Mica Levi. I must tell you that the score is one of a kind.

But I doze off at some point during the movie. I mean, at first it was interesting that Scarlett Johansson’s character has to undress to kill her preys, but then it gets repetitive for some time. Not to mention the whole process choosing who will be the target. It reminds me of Ryan Gosling in any Refn movie: less talking, more long scene. But at least the ending was worth it.

I am aware the film got raves, but this one fell short of my expectation. I must admit it’s very memorable for its score and has beautiful cinematography (it has many strong contender for best shot). Anyway, maybe it was just me who was very tired or maybe Glazer is not for me.

My most anticipated shot from the trailer in the movie.

New Catch: The Double (Richard Ayoade)

4.Jesse Eisenberg in THE DOUBLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Dean Rodgers
Jesse Eisenberg in THE DOUBLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Dean Rodgers

When I saw Denis Villeneuve‘s Enemy weeks ago, my first impression was that it was unsettling and the ending really earned its reputation (read: scary as fuck). It stars Jake Gyllenhaal in double roles and the film is set in modern setting where the first Jake plays a college professor (yes please!) and the other Jake is an aspiring actor with only cameo roles on his resume (who somewhat can afford a luxurious apartment). But then I saw Richard Ayoade‘s The Double the other week and it was definitely something else despite being almost in the same vein.

Here we have Jesse Eisenberg (and Ayoade’s Submarine cast in minor roles) in the lead role as a 9-to-5 employee in a very dull office environment. He’s hardworking, but he’s hardly social. Then three things happen: 1). An accident at his apartment, 2). He meets a photocopy girl (played by Mia Wasikowska), and 3). Someone who looks exactly like him start working at his office. Then it all starts spiraling upside down, left to right, and front to back. I must say Eisenberg really give a wonderful performance that sticks with me afterwards.

The film, written by Ayoade and Avi Korine (yes, the Korine sister), clearly try not to be so serious by giving the two lead characters interchanging names: Simon James and James Simon. Not only that, but also the fact that other people don’t see the similarity between the two. It’s so funny, but this aspect also gives the film unnerving feeling later on where James and Simon (ha!) start to know each other.

It’s made clear that the film is set in a not so distant future. But instead of being lazy and giving it a futuristic look, the production designer takes another turn and use retro setting for everything and keep it simple and dark. Other highlight is how the film uses the most out of its sound design. It’s impossible to ignore the sound editing and mixing in this film. It’s beautiful, precise, and haunting.

Ayoade has expressed that he was thinking about Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood For Love while making this. But to me it seems there’s a resemblance between this film with any of recent Wes Anderson’s film. Not only the quirky lead character, but also the fast talking dialogue (although Eisenberg has probably gotten used to it thanks to The Social Network). But don’t think it’s all rapid fast dialogue. Instead most of the times the film uses the emptiness with the sound mentioned earlier and it creates a jaunting space in the story.

The Double doesn’t go for the shock like Enemy does. It goes for the thrill and suspense and build it by having each act get more intense towards the end. The result is a very memorable take on Dostoyevsky’s novel The Double and it puts Ayoade’s name back on the radar and it really, really shows a promising talent that confirms Submarine is just a warm-up and there’s a lot more to be seen from Ayoade.

Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska in THE DOUBLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Dean Rodgers
Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska in THE DOUBLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Dean Rodgers