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Under The Skin (2013): Film Review

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Under The Skin is a 2013 Drama/Fantasy film starring actress Scarlett Johansson and directed by Jonathan Glazer

Budget: 13.3 million USD

Box Office: 7.2 million USD

IMDb: 6.3/10           Roger Ebert: 4/4           Rotten Tomatoes: 84%

I give it: 4/5

Under the Skin is a 2013 production that belongs to the sci-fi genre. However, most viewers of the film agree that the film breaks away from some of the most common factors seen in Sci-fi films. When the words “Sci-fi” or “Science Fiction” are mentioned, people almost automatically think of Oscar winning blockbusters like Gravity (2013) or Interstellar (2014). That, or their mind shifts towards Star Wars (1977-still going strong) or Star Trek the famous TV series (1968) that’s also been made into a film series. Notice the words “Stars” as the shared elements between the two titles. This is due to the fact that for such a long time, science fiction films have been associated with galaxies, stars, extra celestial beings, life on different planets…etc. However, Under the Skin presents itself as an astoundingly unconventional sci-fi film with no Space fights or laser beams whatsoever. Under The Skin is a sci-fi film that takes place on Earth, Scotland; to be specific.

The story is about a mysterious nameless woman played by Johansson, who roams the streets of Glasgow, Scotland, hunting for men who she lures in with her vibrant sexuality then eats, not literally. Eventually, we understand that Scarlett Johansson is an alien who’s completely disconnected from normal human emotions and feelings.

That, of course, doesn’t in anyway mean that Under the Skin is free of the mesmerizing visuals we find in sci-fi films. In fact, the film is packed with them but it does so in the most avant-garde way possible, establishing itself as a visionary science fiction film rather than a movie about colorful creatures fighting each other for entertainment reasons. That doesn’t necessarily mean that this specific kind of pleasurable and humorous films isn’t needed. But every now and again, it is refreshing to find a film rising from a certain genre, altering the peoples’ view of it.

Until this very day, some people still believe that a true, genuine sci-fi flick has to have certain elements and iconographies in order to be listed under the sci-fi genre. However, I believe that is a common mistake that societies tend to make when exposed to a certain constant, unchanging thing or nature for so long that they forget that it can be altered or reformed.

The opening scene of Under the Skin is very important, as it has been directly linked to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey numerable times. The scene is viewed as a reference to 2001. The story opens with a black screen and a white dot in the middle that keeps growing until it overtakes the whole screen with its blinding brightness, followed by a cosmic close up, followed by a close up of an eye. All this is happening while a score that is so similar to that of 2001 is playing and a woman (Johansson’s voice) is mumbling incomprehensible words. This scene establishes the viewer’s understanding that he/she’s about to go on a journey rather than watch a film that he/she might forget after. The sequence also sets the scene for what’s to come. In a sense, this scene is a perfect opener, enlightening its spectators that they’re in for a film that is more concerned with building atmosphere than it is with multifaceted plot or dialogue.

There’s only one main character and one star in this film and that is Scarlett Johansson. Her character is of an alien who lands in Scotland and takes form on Earth as a very beautiful and very seductive young woman. Johansson’s character displays an absence of empathy. Another important aspect when it comes to the characters of the film is that some of the men Johansson chats with are real actual passers by who have no idea they’re talking to a huge movie star or that they’re being filmed. Johansson drives the van herself and the scene is shot in hours on end.

The narrative content of the film is innately sexual as it focuses on a woman luring in men using her sexuality, beauty and body in order to then use them for her own special purposes. The film makes great use of the documentary style to
the extent that what you see as a reality on screen is almost too relatable that it initially becomes uncomfortable to watch. In contrast to this amount of reality thrown in your face, comes the way more cinematic and stylistic filming style, which dominates a large part of the film. Consequently, this filming style juxtaposes against the realism of the very realistic scenes. The film’s music is almost perfect. It’s horrifying, alarming, disturbing and startling in every way.

The whole film feels like one long dream/nightmare where everything is familiar yet, seems strangely odd. Where places that echo with safety now vibrate with anxiety and fear. Under the Skin reminds us that cinema is the closest thing we have to dreaming without actually being asleep. Remarkably, the director manages to take the feeling of everyday scenery and turn it into one that is associated with alienation and disconnection from the real world. The film attacks its viewers with its bold, alien visuals and its almost perfect musical score and magnificently produces a delightfully nightmarish cinematic environment while holding back nothing. The visuals and music are so in sync that you feel threatened watching every frame of this film.

It’s been said that this film in particular is a beautiful, yet a dreadful metaphor of women’s sexuality. Some film critics even describe it as one of the most powerful feminist films of the 21st century.

It is quite understandable that during the 80s and 90s period, Sci-Fi films were directly associated with individuals labeled as “Geeks” or “Nerds”. However, now, serving a total disclaimer to the above claim; sci-fi films have managed to become part of the mainstream theme of entertainment. Now comes Under the Skin, placing the sci-fi genre among Art house cinema as a step to alter and develop the specific genre. This only serves to prove that no genre is limited to its most popular iconographies and no filmmaker should stop trying to develop, revise and experiment with any of the well-known genres. The biggest, most significant proof of constant generic change is Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.

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Jane the Virgin to Be Made Into An Arabic Series Called ‘El Anesa Farah’

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Jane the Virgin, the American romantic drama and iconic telenovela, will be made into an Arabic series entitled ‘El Anesa Farah.’

S Productions, an Egyptian media house, has claimed the rights to remake the American hit drama series ‘Jane the Virgin’ into an Arabic version, as a fan myself of the show, I can’t quite put how I feel about this!

If you haven’t watched the series, I’ll tell you why it’s very courageous to take such step! You see, the American series follows the story of Jane who gets accidentally inseminated, yep! She is a virgin who gets pregnant, and that is the least daring thing about the series.

She gets pregnant with another man’s child while being engaged to another man, and oh, the child she is carrying belongs to her former crush. I think that gives you full insight on what I mean about the series being very daring!

The Arabic version will feature the local stars Asmaa Abou El Yazeed, Rania Youssef, Ahmed Magdy and Mohamed Kelany, alongside Arfa Abdel Rassoul, Heba Abd El Aziz and Tamer Farag. 

The series will be directed by renowned Egyptian directors Ahmed El Gendy and Wael Farrag, and written by Mahmoud Ezzat and Amr Medhat.

Sally Waly, founder of S productions, hopes that this would be a good step for the production house by entering the Arabic drama field with an award-wining series as Jane the Virgin.

 

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All You Need to Know About the 41st Edition of CIFF

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The 41st edition of CIFF which is dedicated to the late Egyptian film critic and multi-year festival artistic director, Yossef Cherif, kicks off tonight at the Cairo Opera House and until the 29th of November with so many cinematic surprises coming your way.

10 days of cinematic events, 10 days that will include the screening of 150 film from all genres and from across the world and even though the films hail from 63 countries, the festival still focuses on representing the Arab cinema by having 20 selections in the lineup from the MENA region.

“For this year’s edition, we are planning an exciting lineup with many gala screenings,” said CIFF President Mohamed Hefzy. “More importantly, we are targeting a surprising international world premiere; something that has not happened at CIFF for many years.”

 

The opening ceremony of CIFF will see the stars Khaled el Sawy, Dina el Sherbiny and Ahmed Dawoud as the hosts.

The festival will honor filmmaker Sherif Arafa and legendary star Menna Shalaby by awarding them the Faten Hamama Honorary Award for their lifetime’s achievement.

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More masterclasses and in-conversations announced on the list of the the highly anticipated 2nd edition of Cairo Industry Days! Hurry up and register for your early bird accreditation for 400 EGP instead of 600 EGP, ending tomorrow. المزيد من المحاضرات والحوارات تنضم لجدول أيام القاهرة لصناعة السينما! اذا كنت من العاملين بصناعة السينما، قم بالتسجيل المبكر في أيام القاهرة لصناعة السينما مقابل ٤٠٠ جنية مصري بدلاً من ٦٠٠ جنية حتي يوم ١٥نوفمبر. اضغط على الرابط للتسجيل: https://www.ciff.org.eg/ar/اعتماد-أيام-القاهرة

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Legendary director, screenwriter and actor Terry Gilliam will also be honored with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, during the opening ceremony of the festival.

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This is a special tribute to cinema, storytelling and exceptional imagination! We are happy to announce honouring legendary filmmaker Terry Gilliam, the maverick behind "Monty Python", "Brazil", "12 Monkeys" and many others, with the festival's prestigious "Lifetime Achievement Award". Fans will also get the opportunity to hear from the director during Cairo Industry Days' in-conversation event at the Cairo Opera House. إنه احتفاء بالسينما والحكي والخيال الاستثنائي.. يسعدنا أن نعلن تكريم صانع الأفلام الأسطوري تيري جيليام، الساحر الذي صنع "مونتي بايثون" و"برازيل" و"12 قردًا" وغيرها، بجائزة فاتن حمامة التقديرية عن مجمل أعماله. وسيتاح لجمهور السينما وصناعها الاستماع لجيليام في جلسة نقاشية تُعقد بدار الأوبر المصرية. #CIFF41

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The ‘Irishman‘ will be the opening movie of the festival, which is the Middle East debut of legendary director Martin Scorsese, starring Academy Award-winning actors Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

A jury of the finest international talents, including Oscar-winning American screenwriter and director Stephen Gaghan, Italian screenwriter and director Daniele Luchetti, Moroccan producer Lamia Chraibi, and Chinese actress Qin Hailu, will be the ones deciding the winner of the coveted Golden and Silver Pyramid awards for best film and best director respectively.

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We’re proud to announce that the Middle Eastern premiere of Martin Scorsese’s crime epic, The Irishman, will be screened for the public on Thursday 21st at 1 pm @ Cairo Opera House, Grand Hall. Free tickets will be available starting 9:30 AM, on a first come first serve basis. #CIFF41 يسر مهرجان القاهرة السينمائي الدولي الإعلان عن عرض فيلم إفتتاح المهرجان "الأيرلندي"، من إخراج مارتن سكورسيزي، للجماهير يوم الخميس ٢١ نوفمبر. علماً بأن العرض مجاني، وبأسبقية الحضور. التذاكر ستكون متاحة بدئاً من الساعة ٩:٣٠ صباحاً.

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Egyptian star Sherine Reda is a jury member for the Best Arab Film Award, While actress Hanan Motawie will be a jury member in Cinema of Tomorrow jury and last but not least, Hana Shiha will be the jury member in Horizons of Arab Cinema Competition.

Finally, if you’re looking to take part in this huge event and be present to witness history being made, you can now purchase all event tickets through Tazkarti’s website.

 

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What We Think About the Biggest Arab Drama ‘Mamalek El Nar’

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The first episode of the Arab/Egyptian TV series ‘Mamalek El-Nar‘ aired on November 17th after long anticipation that followed the release of the trailer, soon after the audience started comparing the promising series to Game of Thrones, so is it really similar? Is it really as promising? Is it a replica or was GOT just an inspiration?

The series really is huge! The production for instance is described as “the biggest Arab drama of 2019 reportedly worth $40M,” and the plot will highlight the rule of Ottomans during their dominance of the Arab world in the early 16th century.

The series is written by Mohamed Suleiman Abdel-Malek and Ahmed Nada, directed by British Peter Weber and is starring Egyptian actor Khaled El-Nabawy, Syrian actors Mahmoud Nasr, Kinda Hanna and Rashid Assaf, Palestinian actor Abdelmoneim Aamayri, and many more Arab stars.

Watching the trailer, you could really see the strong resemblance between the series and the popular HBO’s Game of Thrones, what with the battles, the costumes, the music and even the rage.

But well, it takes A LOT to mimic such a legendary production, and it might be the inspiration but we surely can’t wait to see the results of this huge production.

We won’t be too quick to judge until we watch more episodes and we have high hopes that the rest will change our views, and prove that it is indeed an original story and not one where characters are fighting over a throne which is a plot that rings a bell to many.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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