Under the Skin: Mica Levi’s Avant-Garde Score Performed at Concert

under_the_skin_6_johanssonThe two screenings of Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin,” one of the most original and eccentric films of the year, wee sold out at the Regent Theater in downtown L.A. on Tuesday night.

Movie events and event movies in the true sense of the term– high art-meets-pop culture–the screenings were accompanied by live performances of the score conducted by the film’s brilliant composer, Mica Levi.


There were long lines on Main Street for both performances, and the 7 p.m. screening started late, but you could drink in the back of the vintage space (which has 500 seats)  up until the movie actually began.

under_the_skin_5_johanssonAmong the fashionably attired, lagely young crowd, there were some celebts, including KCRW d.j. Chris Douridas, songwriter-producer Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange), filmmaker Gus Van Sant and “Breaking Bad” music supervisor Thomas Golubić.

“People are hungry for a different kind of experience,” said Liz Hart, Levi’s manager, who planned the affair more than a year ago with Ronen Givony, the founder and producer of Wordless Music, a New York-based promoter. “People don’t often get to be that physically close to stringed instruments being played.”

Though different, the event recalled the Hollywood Bowl screening of “West Side Story” accompanied by the L.A. Philharmonic in the summer of 2012.

The screening stripped out the score from the film while maintaining the dialogue, ambient sound and found music. Levi, whose string-heavy score is powerful and unsettling, befitting the movie, conducted a 25-piece orchestra while the film played behind them.

under_the_skin_4_johanssonThe orchestra was culled from Wordless Music’s inhouse ensemble, and wild Up, which calls itself a modern music collective “committed to creating visceral, thought-provoking happenings.”

“We try both in our film concerts and our regular music events to bring people who ordinarily would not attend a classical music concert and use the opportunity to play music that they wouldn’t hear otherwise,” said Givony.

The organizers, who included the Regent, and Liz Garo, the booker at Spaceland Productions, which programs shows at the Echo and the Echoplex, relied on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word along with some ticket giveaways from KCRW and Amoeba Music.

Wordless has  produced screenings of “Palo Alto” and “There Will Be Blood” last year with Hynes and Jonny Greenwood, respectively, as well as a screening of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” with composer Dan Romer in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park two summers ago.

under_the_skin_3_johanssonThe “Beasts of the Southern Wild” show traveled to London, and will make a return engagement January 23-24 at New York’s Symphony Space.

Levi’s name may not be familiar yet to the Oscar voters of the Academy, she has already been honored at the European Film Awards in December and will pick up an award this Saturday from the L.A. Film Critics Association, which shared its best score award between Levi and Greenwood, for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice.”
under_the_skin_2_johansson“The soundtrack’s been selling very well for an avant-garde film that only grossed about $2 million,” said Hart. “It’s really crucial in advancing the plot — there’s so little dialogue. A lot of the emotion and content is really carried by the score.”