Festival playbill a revelation
Scarlett Johansson. Picture: Supplied

The stars are lining up for this year's Revelation Film Festival, with Richard Sowada and his hardworking team putting the finishing touches on what promises to be the strongest line-up in the history of Perth's iconic indie-cinema celebration.

Revelation has secured several of the hottest film's on the international indie-film scene, headed by Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin, a breathtakingly audacious sci-fi thriller (for want of a better description) that has been dividing critics and audiences since its sensational debut at last year's Venice Film Festival.

Adapted from a book by British-based Australian author Michael Faber, Under the Skin features Scarlett Johansson as a gorgeous alien who drives around Glasgow in a truck picking up men, taking them back to her home and, after giving them the momentarily pleasure of her luscious body, killing them.

This synopsis only hints at the deep, mesmerising strangeness of Glazer's movie, in which we struggle to work out what is weirder or more disconcerting - a sexy alien luring men to their deaths (achieved by what can only be described as a pool of essence-sucking tar) or the barely comprehensible Glaswegians she encounters.

Even more curious is how Under the Skin was made. In arguably the boldest use of a major star in movie star in history Glazer, who is best known for Sexy Beast and Birth, had Johansson wear a dark wig to make her less recognisable, put her into a truck fitted with multiple cameras and set her loose on highways and byways of Glasgow.

Under the Skin is a stunning piece of avant-garde art which many critics thought the best film at the Venice Film Festival, where Gravity and Philomena also debuted (others thought it a head-scratching bore and booed the director and his luminescent star, who says she was holding her breath as she sat amongst the adoring Italian glitterati).

Under the Skin will open this year's Revelation Film Festival at the Luna Leederville on July 3 and is sure to send some soaring into cinematic heaven while others will be left staggering down Oxford Street looking for a stiff drink.

Curiously, Revelation has also secured the other envelope-pushing indie that had everyone talking at Venice, Steven Knight's Locke, in which another major star, Tom Hardy (of Bronson and The Dark Knight Rises fame), spends the entire movie driving on the M6 to London.

Hardy plays a construction foreman and family man who has abandoned a major job in Birmingham to be the by the side of a woman giving birth to the child he fathered in an out-of-wedlock one-night stand. As he drives, Hardy's Locke struggles to keep both his career and private life from unravelling.

Locke is minimalist cinema at its most powerful, with the normally two-fisted powerhouse Hardy giving a surprisingly sensitive, nuanced performance. It is a must-see for local filmmakers, who will see you don't need a Gravity-sized budget to make a movie about an existential crisis in a capsule.

Revelation has also pulled off a coup in securing the red-hot US documentary Finding Vivian Maier, which tells the stranger-than-fiction tale of an eccentric nanny who in her spare time took tens of thousands of photographs yet, despite their extraordinary quality, never exhibited during her lifetime.

Several year's ago the film's co-director John Maloof purchased a storage unit for $380 to discover a treasure trove of photographs, negatives and undeveloped film which, after he began the process of archiving the material, revealed her to be a major outsider artist.

When Maloof posted examples of Maier's work on the internet it caused a sensation, with critics comparing her pictures, which document ordinary mid-century American life, to the work of Robert Frank, Helen Levitt and Diane Arbus.

How Maier came to be a major artist and why she never exhibited is the subject of this enthralling documentary, a portrait of a singular woman who reviled the conventionality of post-war America, yet spent her every waking moment documenting it with eye-popping artistry.

It is not surprising Revelation founder and director Sowada is pleased with grabbing these three terrific movies. It augers well for the complete program, which will be announced on June 7 (tickets will be available from that date).

"It's been an extraordinary year for the event already," Sowada says. "After receiving a 30 per cent increase in international entries the quality and diversity of the works is exceptional.

"Overall, it's a truly sophisticated event with some beautiful and powerful works on show. We're very pleased and look forward to the discussions that are bound to ensue."

Under the Skin features Scarlett Johansson as a gorgeous alien who drives around Glasgow in a truck picking up men, taking them back to her home and, after giving them the momentarily pleasure of her luscious body, killing them.

The West Australian

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