Wednesday, October 02, 2013

"Don Jon": Joseph Gordon-Levitt really goes solo, and maybe composer Richard Strauss would have approved

Early in “Don Jon”, writer-director Joseph Gordon-Levitt lists the items that matter to him in life.  They sound like a dementia-elimination short term memorization test.  The items are “My body, my pad, my ride, my church, my family, my boys, my girls, and my porn”.  The last of these is what the movie is mostly about, of course.

As for Levitt’s body, well, he is 32 now, so he has had time to mature.  I recall him in “Mysterious Skin”.  But in this film, his chest and arms look shaved, although he didn’t have that much to lose to start with. But that's an odd thing to do for his own film. 
  
He seems to be divorced, with kids, but now he doesn’t want a family any more.  Even his girl friends (like Barbara, played by Scarlet Johansson) wonder why the fantasy life is better than the real thing. Jon says he can lose himself with fantasy, and after all, you can die from the real thing (HIV).  Yet, he’s always confessing to the unseen priest, and sometimes says in these sessions that he has made moral progress by doing only the real thing. He does develop a quasi-platonic relationship with an older classmate (Julianne Moore), although it's not clear what he's taking in that community college course (a final exam in three weeks). 


The film, from Rogue and Voltage (official Facebook)  is said to be extremely low budget (if $6 million is low budget), but technically looks slick.  The film was set in Hackensack, New Jersey, but appears to have been shot in New York City and LA also.    

Jon often narrates his impressions of his life, giving us a humorous idea of what makes him tick.  He never quite speaks to the camera, as in true mockumentary, although that technique could have been tried.  
   
The soundtrack is pedestrian, and does not avail itself of Richard Strauss’s tone poem  “Don Juan”, which ends softly.

In any case, Don Jon eschews what my mother used to call “real life”. There is something cynical about our hyperindividualistic culture when it punishes the risk-taking (emotional more than just physical) that comes with marriage and real commitment to lifelong intimacy with one person, and to providing for other people, including other generations.  We might not be able to sustain it. 

The film mentions the site "pornhub", which apparently exists.  But surfing porn sites can be dangerous because it can lead to "accidental" possession of child pornography, which can be detected by repair technicians later or by certain kinds of Internet monitoring, becoming legally dangerous. 
   
Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA preceded this feature with a short, “The Music Man” from Focus Frontier, and Cinelan (on Hulu).  It shows a group at Stanford called the “Laptop Orchestra” and talks a little bit about computer music composition. 

Picture: Eire-Lackawanna, Hoboken NJ (mine, Feb. 2013).  Sorry, Journal Square is in Jersey City, also on Path.  How well do I remember my New Jersey geogrraphy, having lived there 1973-1974.. 

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