Scarlett Johansson’s new film Under the Skin, where she plays an alien in a human body, failed to impress at the Venice Film Festival Tuesday, becoming the first in-competition movie to be near unanimously booed off at a critics’ screening.
Johansson and British director Jonathan Glazer seemed awkward at a press conference later. The actress struggled to talk about her character, an emotionless android who seduces and kidnaps lonely men, whilst insisting that the feature defied categorizations.
”It is not a thriller, a science fiction or horror film,” said Johansson, sporting a tan and long curly blond hair, as opposed to the black wig and pale complexion seen in the movie.
The US actress provided some much-needed Hollywood glamour to the Venice event, which opened last week with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock but has since been shunned by other celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon.
Shot in Scotland using non-professional actors and secret cameras, Under the Skin features heavily-accented dialogue that was hard to understand for many viewers. The film is based on a 2000 novel by Michel Faber.
Glazer, whose last feature was Birth with Nicole Kidman in 2004, said he wanted to convey the lead character’s alienation. ”It did not bother me that the dialogue was indecipherable at times,… as long as the intent, behaviour in the film was clear,” he said.
Johansson said acting in street scenes where passers-by were not aware that a film was being shot was ”terrifying,” because she did not know how people would react. ”It was a therapy, I guess,” she chuckled.
The star of Lost in Translation, Iron Man 2 and Match Point also complained about the Scottish climate. ”It was harsh and it was brutal, and it was cold, and it was wet, and it was terrifying,” she said.
Tuesday also saw the presentation of another competitor for the top Golden Lion award: Ana Arabia by Israeli director Amos Gitai.
Shot in a single, 84-minute take, it sees a female reporter visiting a small mixed Arab-Israeli community near Tel Aviv.
Gitai’s uninterrupted shooting technique was seen as a metaphor for the links that bind Israeli and Palestinian communities, despite their intractable conflict. His slow-moving film however received only a lukewarm reception from critics.
”In this region people believe in the power of bombs, arms and money, but we have to believe also in the power of ideas. We have to maintain utopias, even in the darkest moments,” the 52-year-old director said.
The 11-day festival ends September 7 with an award ceremony. So far, Philomena by Stephen Frears, featuring a star performance by Judi Dench, and The Wind Rises, by Japanese cartoon master Hayao Miyazaki, have emerged as critics’ favourites. (dpa)