70th Venice Film Festival day six: Under the Skin and Still Life
The sixth day of screenings at the Venice Film Festival revealed two interesting British pictures: Under the Skin by Jonathan Glazer (in competition) and Still Life by Uberto Pasolini (Orizzonti).
From cool video clips for Radiohead, Massive Attack and Blur to his first feature films in the early 2000s, it has taken director Jonathan Glazer nearly ten years to prepare the adaptation of Michel Faber’s conceptual novel of the same title.
In Scotland, an alien in human form (Scarlett Johansson) drives around in a van to lure in loners and bring them to a trap house where, for some reason, a black liquid swallows them.
Visually unique, the story is told from the eyes of an alien who is on a mission we cannot understand. The movie is shot in Glasgow with hidden cameras and most of the interactions are real, with people unaware of the scenes being filmed.
The movie divided audience and critics; some praised it whilst others could not hold in their laughter. It’s very hard to render something so conceptual on screen, and the final result misses the mark. Nevertheless, an interesting experience.
Still Life by Uberto Pasolini
Even though he is a descendent of legendary filmmaker Luchino Visconti, director Uberto Pasolini doesn’t come from the film scene. He worked as an investment banker in London for over ten years before he finally decided to embark on a production assistant role for Roland Joffe on the movie The Killing Fields, in 1983. In the 90s he became a producer himself, achieving international success twice with Palookaville and The Full Monty.
Still Life is his second directorial work, the story of council officer John May (Eddie Marsan), whose job is finding the next of kin of those who have died alone. When his department is downsized, John must up his efforts on his final case; it’s the beginning of a liberating journey that allows him to start living life at last.
Marsan, praised by the likes of Steven Spielberg, is sublime in portraying the loneliness and eccentricity of this worker and his bizarre, little-known job. He delves into the character’s invisible emotions with peerless sobriety and authenticity, naturally creating an emphatic connection with the audience.
The emotional weight of this melancholic story is enhanced by the soundtrack of award-winning composer Rachel Portman, who is also Pasolini’s wife.
Still Life was also inspired by real people and events; the Italian director and producer recognised something both profound and universal in these workers. “There are people whose personal lives appear empty but who are emotionally self-sufficient and find fulfilment in other areas of their lives, for example their jobs,” said Pasolini.
The ten-minute ovation at the Sala Grande premiere was well-deserved; this is a little gem that everyone should see.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
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