Archive for September 7th, 2016


by Duane Porter
“The present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead.” — Sylvia Plath

Considering science fiction as a genre with it’s own codes and conventions, among the many well-worn themes it might focus on is what will the future be like. Dare we hope for utopia or is the opposite more likely? Science fiction often presents a cautionary tale concerning the potential consequences of our relationship with technology, playing on our fear of the unknown, foreseeing a technological dystopia where artificial intelligence has come into conflict with humanity (man-versus-machine). At it’s best, science fiction can offer a speculation using ideas derived from scientific research to shed light on the problem of our awareness of mortality (the human condition) and the withering indifference of the universe (space, time and infinity). On the basis of these criteria, Her surely qualifies as a science fiction film. It begins as a look at the future with an uncertain concern over the relationship between people and their mobile devices and how this affects social behavior. Then, at it’s center, Her becomes an uncommonly perceptive account of falling in love. Ultimately, it ends up being about something else, a reflection on the nature of consciousness and the mysteries of existence.



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 © 2016 by James Clark

      Many of the best and the brightest exponents of cutting-edge films approach us from out of formidable cinematographic, optical skills. Several—like David Lynch, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Ridley Scott, Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Jacques Demy, Spike Jonze, Wong Kar Wai, Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Glaser, Robert Bresson and Abbas Kiarostami—began their transaction as producers of paintings, graphic design, architecture, photography and fashion. As such their evocation of energies not appropriately recognized in mainstream history tend to unleash virtuoso visual impact (infused with aural complement). Jim Jarmusch, quite to the contrary—describable, I think, as Antonioni for extroverts—though far from inept as to visual and sonic excitement, has a playwright’s appetite for the revelatory range of dialogue and its precinct of interpersonal situations.

Near the outset of his second film, Down by Law (1986), we are treated to a piercing clash of bristling verbiage between a DJ, Zack (all but silent), and his girlfriend, Laurette (quickly living up to her born-to-lose name in the born-to-lose city of New Orleans, where nothing is new and the aura of being burned at the stake carries a lot of weight). As the episode catches fire, we have Zack in the Maid’s role and Laurette adding fuel to the fire in the form of pelting him with swatches of his CD and vinyl collection. “It’s just you… You don’t take care of me!” she declares. “I’m ashamed of you, Zack… I’m finished with you! I’m completely finished with you… I’ve had it with you and your fuckin’ stupid radio show” [with its myriad voices]. Then she skids into a zone where a recognition of glories notwithstanding have to be given some due. Laurette, an avatar of keeping the faith, comes down on her knees to reason with a beau sitting on the mattress on the floor but also thousands of miles away in his own (far less demonstrative) dilemma. “OK… Everything’s OK,” she whispers with tears forming in her eyes. “Why can’t you stay with one station? Why are you fuckin’ your own future? [He looks away] … What are you so afraid of, Zack?” By way of explaining himself, the music man offers, “Yeah, well that’s alright, Laurette… We can’t live in the present forever…” She, taking his in fact possibly complicated consideration to be a sign of welcome simplicity, points out that he could reapply to stations in the far-flung cities which he walked away from. “There’s nothing wrong with asking somebody for somethin’… [Frustration rising] Why is it always so fuckin’ hard for you?” The camera angle has her standing looking our way while Zack crouches on the floor, looking away. From out of this seeming channel of compromise she bids: “You’re a good DJ, Zack. All you gotta do is jerk people off a little… That’s all they really want, you know…” How wrong her hope was, however, is not long in blowing up in his face. He nods, in assenting to her awareness that to get ahead (and thereby take care of her sentimental priorities) you have to be comfortable (as she is) being a peasant. Then he explodes this mismatch by quietly and painfully wheezing, “Well, I never jerk people off… And you fuckin’ know it, Laurette…” Her reaction, predictably, involves more noise and violence. But, this being the work of a film aristocrat, she shows us much more than that. In the first seconds of this clash, she races about tossing those little black flying saucers, and her visage is as much a smile as a grimace. From out of that shaky passion she challenges his interpersonal pedigree. “I’m not talkin’ to you anymore… because you don’t want to fuckin’ be here! I hate you and I’m an idiot for being with you… You’ve made me embarrassed of my own time.” The final step of this honky-tonk refinement comprises her attempting to throw his Louboutin-vintage steel-toe Paris buckaroo boots over their wrought-iron balcony and into a desolate street of dreams. “Not the shoes!” he uncharacteristically yells. Her retort—“No? Go on, hit me, motherfucker! Hit me!” The full thrust of this strangely civilized freak-out involves a cut to that gutter and the wall setting it off with its torn beverage poster saying, “And don’t forget to bring Granddad…” Sitting on the curb, as he does, Zack momentarily seems a letdown. But then he tosses away the loafers he had put on to go downstairs and he slowly puts on the kickers Laurette did manage to violate, brushing them off with a rag. (more…)

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