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Ashley Benson (#110 of 3)

Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin

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Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Under the Skin
Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s first film since 2004’s Birth, Under the Skin has discernible reference points (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Chris Cunningham’s Rubber Johnny), and yet, this peculiar film is the most original feature at Toronto, and possibly of this year. It operates within a sublime netherworld immediately recognizable as being sprung from Glazer’s imagination, where, previously, the soul of a man was reborn in a 10-year-old boy and caused woman to nearly lose her mind, and before that, where a frightening, oft-hilarious psychopath wreaked havoc on the sanity of a man suffering an existential crisis over his former life as a criminal.

Now, in the gray, desolate coldness of Scotland, an extraterrestrial played by Scarlett Johansson seduces young Scottish men into a black hole where they meet a most unusual death. Given her pouty, coral-pink lips, chic black bob, alluring friendliness, and voluptuous breasts, the alien siren has little difficulty luring men back to “her place,” a decrepit building that, once inside, resembles the blanketing black nothingness of a virtual training game from The Matrix. Here, she walks into the darkness while slowly disrobing, the men following suit, unaware that the closer they reach her, the deeper they step into a never-ending inky ocean that swallows them whole.

Poster Lab: Spring Breakers

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Poster Lab: <em>Spring Breakers</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Spring Breakers</em>

The marketing behind Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, a trip that’s destined to become the sinful party/crime flick of the year, cheekily promises just what the gonzo film delivers: a neon rollercoaster of constant juxtaposition, where sugar and spice share space with drugs and bullets. Widely known as the movie to dash the goody-ness of tween faves like Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, and Ashley Benson, Spring Breakers is like Rainbow Brite by way Scarface, and you might gather as much from the film’s best poster, a careful assortment of travel items that range from the sweet to the deadly.

Begging you to lean in and look closer, the image, which is right in line with Korine’s strictly-adhered-to color scheme, boasts all the items its quartet of coeds (which also includes Korine’s wife, Rachel) will need for their balls-to-the-wall holiday. Lollipop? Check. Lip gloss? Check. Pink Chucks? Check. Brass kuckles, cocaine vial, condoms, and glocks? All present and accounted for. This is a truly ace one-sheet, fetching from a distance and intricate up close, while also proving evocative and the furthest thing from false advertising.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012: Spring Breakers

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Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>Spring Breakers</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2012: <em>Spring Breakers</em>

Here is a film, to borrow a phrase from Don Delillo, about “the neon epic of Saturday night,” a DayGlo beach-borne fantasy of bright lights smeared and shining; it exists in this strange and beautiful place upon which Malick, Mann, and MTV incongruously converge. This is art-house maximalism with a tenor like poetry, an incisive and critical drama unafraid to relish and indulge in the subject it intends to deconstruct. You could call it “high-trash” cinema; it collects the cast-aside bric-a-brac of an ostensibly bankrupt culture—Harmony Korine operates here like some rigorously anthropological Katamari, rolling up anything and everything in his path—and transforms it into something earnestly, maybe even transcendently, gorgeous.

Spring Breakers manages in one beer-steeped swoop to both criticize and ultimately redeem the most vacuous detritus it can find: dubstep, coke, video games, beer bongs, keg stands, dreadlocks, cheap 40s, Gucci Mane’s face tattoo, the state of Florida, and the titular spring break as not only a vacation but as a very real-seeming state of being. I don’t want to oversell its intellectual or aesthetic aspirations, but in many ways the film is like Weekend reimagined as a daring iteration of Girls Gone Wild. Or, hell, maybe Jean-Luc Godard’s Step Up Revolution: It’s a radical take on a sexy summer drama by a man with serious artistic ambitions. It’s also quite obviously the best film currently touring the festival circuit.