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Monday, November 4, 2013

HER


by D.E.Levine

A NYFF51 Selection

In a dramatic change from the image of adversarial computers that we've become accustomed to in the movies, Her puts a totally different spin on things and gives the computer a romantic personna.

Spike Jonze directs a funny but profound look at society's relationship with technology and with each other.

A futuristic Los Angeles with stunning skyscrapers and good public transportation shows a "green" society with more of a Utopian existence where the major "illness" seems to be loneliness.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) writes other peoples' love letters through an online company called BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com.  Depressed over a separation from his wife (Rooney Mara), Theodore simply cannot connect with people.  Even the actual writing of the letters is done by computer.

Then, rather accidentally, Theodore meets Samantha, the first A.1 operating system who has a voice (Scarlett Johanson), curiosity and attitude.  It doesn't even seem strange to the audience, because of our constant dependence on technology, when Theodore falls in love with Samantha.

However, as Theodore becomes more enthralled and dependent on Samantha, the operating system is developing its own feelings and desires --- especially the feeling that there's more out there for her and other operating systems than humanity.

Theodore's fascination with and "love" for Samantha stems from his loneliness and the ability to communicate at all times with Samantha.  But, like so many human relationships, Samantha doesn't return his feelings and wants something more.

This film is truly a fascinating and thought provoking commentary on society.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

THE IMMIGRANT


by D.E.Levine

A NYFF51 Selection

In the first scene of The Immigrant we see the back of the Statue of Liberty.  This is an indication of what follows as the main character attempts to assimilate into society.

Ewa (Marion Cottilard),arrives in America in 1921 with her tubercular sister Magda, who is placed in quarantine on Ellis Island and denied entry into the United States.  Due to gossip about her behavior on the voyage over and the non-appearance of the aunt and uncle who were to sponsor the women, Ewa is also denied entry.

A mysterious, well dressed stranger, Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), helps Ewa get off the island and takes her to the lower east side.  Bruno works as an emcee at a place called the Bandits' Roost, where he, the vaudevillians he works with, and the female entertainers he refers to as his "doves" welcome Ewa effusively.

The reality is that Bruno is a pimp who tries to convince Ewa that only through prostitution can she earn enough money to bribe the guards at Ellis Island to release Magda.  Bruno has mixed emotions about Ewa and becomes jealous and violent when his cousin Emil (Jeremy Renner) an illusionist, proceeds to court Ewa.

Unlike the city she imagined paved with gold, and the aunt and uncle who would provide a safe haven and a job, Ewa becomes hardened to her circumstances and what she must do to survive.

Just when you think you know the ending, everything changes in an unexpected series of events. This is indeed a view of the land of plenty that does not attempt to make everything like a fairytale.