Doll to Plop
by Molly Young
Scarlett Johansson: an actress best described in culinary metaphors. Skin like ice cream, mouth like a plum. Her beauty is appetizing more than impressive. There is something oversweet and transient about it, which is the reason I suspect Woody Allen enjoys putting her in his films. He has always been a voracious (if slightly troubling) admirer of feminine beauty, and the impulse to capture Scarlett’s ripe spell for posterity must be irresistible. It is nice work if you can get it.
What you notice first in Vicky Cristina Barcelona is that the actress’s individual features are not stunning. She has plain eyes, bleached hair, and a nose that someone (I can’t remember who) once described as “porcine”. And yet. Like a tasty meatloaf composed of bargain ingredients, Scarlett defies her components to come out very well in the end.
Part of her appeal is that Scarlett’s looks will not age well. She will not, for example, look as good as her costar Patricia Clarkson at Clarkson’s age. Clarkson has the look of someone whose beauty is ancillary to her other characteristics (intelligence, wit.) Scarlett, on the other hand, is one-dimensionally sensuous. Super-sensuous!
This is not a flaw. In fact, it makes her delightful to watch for exactly 90 minutes, the length of a film. During that time, especially when she is filmed by Woody Allen, there is nobody else you would rather watch. She is less an actress than a presence. By which I mean that her Scarlett Johansson-ness never, ever gets subsumed in any role she plays. It is this fact, more than her sexiness, which etches a time stamp on her forehead.
In Vicky Cristina Barcelona we find Woody Allen treating the actress like a doll to plop in different scenarios. We get Scarlett on a bike, Scarlett in a plane, Scarlett by the pool. She is delightful in every case, especially when her sweetness is spiked with more complicated actors.
Scarlett floats among them with the easy carriage of someone accustomed to adoration – a well-loved dog, say, or a pampered child. It is easy to feel jealous or resentful of her, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by doing so. If you are tempted by these emotions, just remind yourself (in a voice tinged with creepiness) to relax and enjoy it. We should all be Scarlett fans.
NEW MUSIC FOR OUR NEW APPRECIATION OF SCARLETT
“Turn to the Assassin” – Junip (mp3)
“Black Refuge” – Junip (mp3)
“Ghosts (Me and You Forever)” – Katkhuda (mp3)
“Beneath the Arcade” – Katkhuda (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Halo inspires us all.
John Cage’s genius overwhelmed us.