Jewish-American actress Scarlett Johansson represents the pinnacle of sexual desirability, whether you come from New Jersey or outer space.
Three highly anticipated films underlining this are about to make their mark on the autumn intentional film festival circuit, the launching pad for the “prestige pictures” that make the most awards buzz. Of most interest is the mysterious “Under the Skin,” a long gestating project from the none-too-prolific Anglo-Jewish director Jonathan Glazer.
“Under the Skin” is based on a satirical science fiction novel by Dutch author Michel Faber. Set in Scotland, it concerns an alien sent to our planet with the goal of trapping and kidnapping humans to be harvested for food. Glazer, director of revolutionary rock videos like Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity” and the cult Ben Kingsley crime film “Sexy Beast,” has wisely cast Johansson as the irresistible interstellar siren on the prowl for hitchhikers.
“Under the Skin” is Glazer’s first film since the 2004 supernatural film “Birth” starring Nicole Kidman. It makes its debut on September 3 at the Venice Film Festival, followed immediately by a bow at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Also appearing at Toronto is “Don Jon,” the first film written, directed and starring Jewish-American actor and “new media pioneer” Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
“Don Jon,” which debuted at Sundance and has its theatrical release dates set for mid-September, concerns a good natured Italian-American young man caught up in the dizzying trail of American status symbols. He chases happiness through his car, his workout routine and, so he believes, having the perfect girlfriend.
The vision of flawlessness, naturally, is Johansson with her luscious dirty blonde locks and form-fitting red dress. Levitt’s growth into true manhood is represented by breaking his crippling addiction to Internet pornography (which makes for some comic and some truly sad scenes) as well as realizing that Johansson represents more of an ideal than a mate that is right for him.
We’ll hear but not see Johansson in Spike Jonze’s “Her,” debuting at the New York Film Festival on October 13. Jonze (born Adam Spiegel) also started his career with music videos (Beastie Boyz, Fatboy Slim, Arcade Fire, Jay-Z and Kanye West) and is the madman responsible for films “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.”
Like “Under The Skin” the specifics on “Her” remain a little vague, but it stars Joaquin Phoenix (born of Jewish parents living a New Age lifestyle in Puerto Rico) as a socially awkward man who forms a relationship with the interactive operating system of his next-level smartphone. That this futuristic Siri has the voice of Sco-Jo is, to be sure, part of what sells this as believable. While no one has seen “Her” yet, it is likely that Johansson’s alluring, imaginary woman will lead to some sort of downfall for the dumbstruck man.
These three roles representing the dangerous allure of the exemplary woman are an interesting twist from Johansson’s most recent success, that of the formidable super-agent Black Widow in the enormously successful “Avengers.” While her character sometimes uses her feminine wiles to ensnare baddies (or get them to think she is weaker than she actually is) the Marvel films have done a pretty good job of respecting the character’s brains as well as her bod. Natasha Romanoff (and, no doubt, her very tight black fighting suit) will be back next April in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”