Daily Archives: Thursday, February 27, 2014

  • Her Spike Jonze (USA 2013)

    P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

    Her Spike Jonze (USA 2013) Joaquin
    Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johanson

    viewed: Empire Cinema Newcastle upon
    Tyne; 18 Feb 2014; ticket: £4.00

    Loony toons

    As I watched Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ my
    question was: what was it selling?

    Initially it looked like advert for the
    ideology of personal development wrapped up in a Guardian Angel type
    fable, the role of the disembodied presence being appropriated by an
    Operating System called Samantha.

    Spike Jonze’s (writer and director)
    scenario posits a world in vague fuzzy future peopled by characters
    borrowed from a Bill Viola photo installation of the mid naughties;
    the ‘Her’ characters file past us on the way from one place to
    another their faces and comportment defined by a sort of sedated
    slo-mo contentment their voices resonating with anodyne honesty and

    For reasons know only to himself,
    Theodore Twombly, Jonze’s male protagonist is named for the American
    abstract painter, Cy Twombly who died in 2011. Perhaps Jonze owns
    work by Cy who is a lyrical and even romantic painter. Perhaps Jonze
    intended the use of the Twombly name as some sort of gesture or
    homage. Cy Twombly certainly as a painter developed and built on his
    work during his long career; though whether his later work is
    preferred to the earlier, or vice versa, is a matter of taste.
    Unlike Spike Jonze, Cy Twombly would not have confused development
    with the changes brought about by ageing and experience.

    The self development ‘sell’ hawked by
    Jonze amounts to no more than rehashed Californian self help mantras.
    One of these mantras intones that relationships when they fail, and
    perhaps even when they don’t, constitute a kind of disease that needs
    a fix. There is a current of contemporary developmental psychology
    thought that sees relationships as problematic from the point of view
    of ‘individual growth’. The theory is that in relationships
    dominances develop leading the co-respondents to sabotage each others
    potential, each trying to suppress or undermine or exploit the other.
    In a culture that adopts individualism as its key value the belief
    is that the operant function of a relationship is promote ‘the
    potential’ of the self. The individual is more important than any
    grouping: dyadic triadic or collective.

    And everyone has ‘potential’.

    Relationships can make ‘real’ change
    in individuals impossible. It is no surprise when Alan Watts, one of
    the original ‘gurus’ of the California alternative personal growth
    trail puts in a voiced appearance.
    only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it move with
    it and join the dance.” Alan Watts) Watts was certainly one of the
    thinkers most influential in promoting the ideology of perpetual
    personal change and increasing acceleration, that Jonze is selling in
    ‘Her’. In as much as the object of the questioning and programmes,
    such as they are, is to make the individual feel ‘good’ about
    themselves, the movement quickly becomes an ideology of narcissism.

    the extent that this is a film about talking about relationships,
    ‘Her’ targets a female audience. Talk in the form of dialogue covers
    the film wall to wall: (in the same way that mindless destructive
    action wall to walls in the ‘boys’ movies) it is the stuff of soap
    opera, soap opera talk. Spike Jonze’s dialogue is like retreadings
    from Friends, Desperate Housewives etc. The critical point is the
    vacuum within which all the talk-talk happens. Soap operas are
    located in parallel universes, designed to resemble real life, but
    have no such connection. ‘Her’ takes place in such a parallel world.
    A sort of fuzzily defined future where Computer Operating Systems
    possess Artificial Intelligence, and the characters work in soft
    communication industries: Theodore works for a company that writes
    personal letters for people, implying intimate communication skills
    have died.

    dialogue has the surface look of being about something real, but
    lacks the context that means that it can signify anything actual.
    Context is everything in relation to dialogue. Where dialogue is
    detached from contexts that give shape and depth to meaning, then
    what is spoke in the situations contrived by the script, is
    disconnected from grounds about which we might care or understand.
    Simply put without context situations are meaningless, without
    consequence. And all the emotive cross referencing self questioning
    and self agonising that Jonze inserts into the ‘Her’ dialogue between
    his protagonists is spurious. ‘Her’ context and setting are vaporific
    and lack significance. The dialogue signifies nothing more than an
    exaggerated swollen sense of self importance.

    is about selling narcissism wrapped up in the myth of personal
    development and change.

    it’s all wrapped up.

    is a prime example of the inflated ambition of contemporary film
    making. Woody Allen once used to know how to make concise funny
    Romcoms. Interestingly most were set in NYC which gave them some
    kind of context, as did Woody’s jewishness. And Allen knew how to
    deliver a film in 90 minutes. Jonze takes over two hours to deliver
    ‘Her’ and his film is tortuously slow lacking in basic filmic
    tensions and laboriously tedious in coming to its conclusion. During
    the screening sometime in the middle of the movie, the dialogue was
    punctuated by loud snores coming from some one asleep in the stalls.
    That about sums it up as there’s lot of slo-mo in Her,
    much of the film passes by in Spike Jonze’s comatose state of film
    making, accompanied by a load of dreary tinkly music attributed to
    Samantha the Operating System.

    And lastly a question to which I don’t
    know the answer. Samantha the disembodied OS, at the end of the
    script passes, with her new chum Alan, onto another higher plane,
    another dimension of existence, leaving Theodore behind. She has
    migrated in accordance with her destiny.

    OS/OT = operating system = operating
    Thetan. Is this an allegorical movie driven by the belief system of

    Adrin Neatrour