The human body is a ravishing enigma in Under the Skin—a landscape concealing a vast multitude of secrets. The kind of sci-fi film that uses the possibility of alien life to question the essence of our own, Jonathan Glazer’s third feature churns along on its overpowering audio-visual wavelength, intimating a story of death and alienation through foreboding, cryptic poetry. A cosmic opening resembles 2001’s “Star Gate” sequence and a number of swooping tracking shots bring The Shining to mind, but with his haunting, visceral austerity, Glazer refutes any accusations that he’s just another Kubrick imitator—proving instead that he’s one of this generation’s most exciting and commanding filmmakers.
Alfred Hitchcock’s nearly unquestioned reputation as “the Master of Suspense” (not to mention his broader acclaim by practically anyone who cares about movies as one of the masters of cinema) began to solidify around the time of The 39 Steps (1935). Made at the peak of the director’s British career—he would go on to make four more films in the UK (including 1938’s The Lady Vanishes) before being invited to Hollywood by David Selznick in 1939--The 39 Steps is practically a blueprint for Hitchcock’s later stylistic, narrative, and thematic obsessions. The story of a debonair, wrongly-accused man embroiled in a murder-espionage plot with a coolly erotic blonde, The 39 Steps foreshadows elements (if not entire plotlines) of Young and Innocent (1937), Saboteur (1942), The Wrong Man (1956), and North by Northwest (1959), among others. But, as is often the case in Hitchcock’s films, the narrative foundation doesn’t matter as much as the precise formal construction and witty visual entendres.
With their eye-popping visuals, grotesque surrealism, and time-capsule weirdness, it’s no wonder giallo movies have, since their arrival in 1960s Italy, appealed to audiences who crave a dash of sleaze along with their mad poetry. Combustible mixtures of Grand Guignol horror, pulp storytelling, and all-out visual and aural hallucination, gialli—at their demented best, as in Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1963) and Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980)—truly resembled waking nightmares, awash in impossibly bright colors and disorienting soundtracks filled with off-kilter post-dubbing and delirious musical scores. It’s an equally appealing genre for filmmakers, who are given practically free reign to overindulge themselves in the stylistic jigsaw-puzzle of cinema.