Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Her": a man falls in love with his own fantasy, or with the "oversoul" or "core" in a computer; remember "She"?

Before reviewing the eclectic Spike Jonze film “Her”, I should mention that there is a 1965 sci-fi film “She” (Robert Day, Hammer Films and MGM) where British anthropologists discover an African city and a queen (Ursula Andress) with the secret to immortality.
  
In this modern sci-fi morality tale, computers  -- that is, operating systems common to laptops, tablets and smart phones – develop consciousness and free will, and hold the secrets to transcending space-time.  That may well be what happens when we “die”.  The Ariel-spirit, Samantha (like “Sami” from “Days of our Lives”), voice of Scarlet Johansson, takes over the life of alienated writer Theodore (or Theo, Joaquin Phoenix, who had said he would retire, sort of like Justin Bieber).  Now Theo actually worked for a company that makes phony cursive handwritten lonely hearts love letters.  So Theo is perfect for soul-takeover after a painful divorce.
  
Critics have written that this film embraces the epitome of narcissism.  Theo, like many of us in middle-age, is so wrapped up in his own intentions and worldviews that he cannot love a real person.  He can love only a fantasy.   This was a furious topic in my own therapy at NIH back in 1962. I can relate to being in love with my own fantastic inner copy of a person, which can be presumed to be perfect forever. (I recall having an imaginary playmate, as a boy, named “Back”, and wondering about the day that I would have to “give up Back”.  Then I took to talking to myself.)   This has dangerous social implications for sustainability.  But Sami has become a real being, an oversoul, escaped from the “Core”, a potential God, capable of demanding idol worship. 
  
The slow-paced film is supposed to be set in modern day Los Angeles, with the Wiltshire Building, and some shots of the Venice CA beach. But many of the downtown and subway shots, quite spectacular, were filmed in Shanghai.  It makes for a better-looking film.  But it’s a little dishonest, artistically, unless you want to believe that the author already has been taken to an alternate universe.

Chris Pratt plays a supporting role.  I had met him in 2005 with Gregory Smith at a public party at the King of Prussia Mall near Philadelphia.  He could lose just a little weight.  He had played "Bright" in the series "Everwood" and also appears in "The O.C.", as well as "Zero Dark Thirty".  
  
   
The official site is here
  
The film was produced by Annapurna, which usually distributes through Columbia (like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “American Hustle”) – although “The Master” went through TWC.  This film was apparently made for the festival circuit and the arthouse audience, but was distributed by Warner Brothers, which has dropped its “Warner Independent Pictures” brand, which apparently would have applied here (similarly New Line no longer has “Fine Line” and “Picturehouse”). 
   
I saw this film Sunday night at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield, VA in a large auditorium, two-thirds sold out.  

Wikipedia attribution link for Shanghai picture 

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