Mica Levi’s score for “Under the Skin,” the eerie 2013 film about alien seduction, leaves more of a sonic imprint than the voice of the unnamed protagonist who guides the action. The young British songwriter-composer, known to pop audiences through her group Micachu & the Shapes, gave life to that work on Tuesday night when she conducted her tense, minimal music alongside the
While the film’s mysterious creature, inhabited with blank-slate disaffection by
For the record, 11 a.m. Jan. 9: The review of Mica Levi's performance of her score alongside the film "Under the Skin" neglected to mention the participation of members of Wild Up. The Los Angeles-based modern music collective collaborated with Levi and the Wordless Music Orchestra during both of Tuesday night's screenings.
In the crowd, film sophisticates and lovers of movie music who moments earlier had been talking shop -- the underappreciated early work of film composer
Volumes of violins, violas, cellos and basses bent notes as a stoic speeding motorcyclist cut across the vast Scottish countryside. A submerged, boneless body burst to a percussive pop and shattered strings. Silence was stabbed by footsteps, of revved engines, of a bawling baby abandoned on a beach, of our heroine cruising Glasgow and absorbing the world.
Unresolved tones reached calming resolution as the story unfolded. Warmth supplanted coldness, then circled back. A creeping wave of bass, cello and tom-tom drifted in from nowhere, only to fade away.
Glazer is an expert at nothingness and the ways in which music can punctuate it. Before making feature films, he earned his reputation as a music video director through work for Radiohead ("Karma Police"), Massive Attack ("Karmacoma," "Live With Me,") Nick Cave, Blur and others.
With his raw, guttural feature-length debut, "Sexy Beast" in 2000 and 2004's under-appreciated creep-fest "Birth," the British director proved himself devoted to tough, penetrating stories. His sparse scores have become one of his stylistic strengths.
Oscar-nominated composer Alexandre Desplat’s work on “Birth” employed a vastness similar to “Under the Skin,” one in which each unspoken sound seemed surrounded by tundra. Though “Birth,” which starred
Glazer's musical choices are seldom manipulative and are often counterintuitive. For "Under the Skin," in fact, Levi leaned toward studied ambivalence, commenting with untethered tones as if in vacant disbelief, filling strings, synths, flute and percussion with an uncentered energy. Trained in composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, she led with a measured confidence of a composer decades older than her late-twentysomething age.
She guided tom-tom drums tracing patterns as men were led to their eventual demise. Snares and cymbals were mostly absent; much of the upper range tones arrived through bowed strings. Huge swaths of the film lacked any music whatsoever.
The Regent, it should be said, was hardly the ideal venue for this endeavor. Recently renovated to house an excellent new music venue, its acoustics wreaked havoc on the film's dialogue. Pity the poor attendees who had never seen the film and had to make sense of the thick Scottish brogue uttered throughout. Amid all the echo, vowels vanished and mumbles reigned. It didn't help that the Regent's bar is within the theater, so clanging glasses and ice cubes co-soundtracked some of the film's first act.
Those petty annoyances, though, subsided, and what remained, literally, was Levi's music. Even now, as I write the morning after, a tense three-note string series is looping in the head as an ear worm. It feels like something terrible is about to happen, something involving an abandoned space, a darkened hallway and a pool of unknown fluid that traps desirous men.
If anyone notices me wandering toward an emotionless woman while a subtle beat thumps, please alert the authorities. Don't, however, tell my wife that I followed this unknown other and her beguiling music into the abyss.