Sabi nga ni Pauline Kael I lost it at the movies
I like “Her” a lot because I could relate to it. On the surface it’s about a man who falls in love with an OS. Yes, it’s a ridiculous premise and it’s not entirely new. The story of a man falling in love with an artificial intelligence has been done before but --- and it’s a big but --- “Her” clearly shows that Spike Jonez invested a lot of emotions and thought to this one. First off, there are similarities between the realities of Theodore, a lonely letter writer, and Samantha, the highly sophisticated operating system. Both of them serves as a conduit: Theodore writes intimate letters for people while Samantha acts like a real human assistant. But the similarity ends there because the irony clearly is while Theodore is supposedly the one who has the ability to grow and mature as a person, through the course of the movie, it’s Samantha who does. And the relationship that builds between the two mirrors the relationship that Theodore had with his ex-wife. And between Theodore and Samantha, it is Theodore who acts more like an artificial intelligence: unable to grow, stuck in the past. I actually thought that Theodore was made in the same fabric as Alwyn Singer, Woody Allen’s high-strung but lovable character in Annie Hall.
Eventually, “Her” ceases to be a tale about a man who falls in love with a machine. It becomes a story about a withdrawn man who lives in a virtual world. From the game that he is emotionally invested in to the fake foliage on the walls of the elevator in his building, it feels as if Theodore doesn’t exist in the real world. And he has become a little creepy, as one of Theodore’s date points out. And he is if not for Joaquin Phoenix’s very sympathetic performance.
In the end, when all the OS take a hike, Theodore is forced to take refuge in his long-time friend Amy who seems to be forever in love with him. They go up the building and watch the sunrise. It’s a loaded imagery because it feels as if for the very first time Theodore is experiencing life as it should be experienced. He is becoming human again.
Like Someone In Love
I haven’t seen Abbas Kiarostami’s A Taste of Cherry but after seeing Like Someone In Love I was instantly intrigued with the filmmaker’s oeuvre. Like Someone In Love is deceptively simple but upon closer inspection it is a movie that was delicately pieced together. On the surface, it’s about Akira, a young college student who moonlights as a prostitute, her lover, the highly volatile Noriaki and the cautious professor, Takashi that she visits one very late evening. Upon Akira’s arrival at Takashi’s small home, she immediately notices an artwork, a recreation of a popular traditional painting. In it, a Japanese woman is teaching a parrot how to speak. Takashi tells the beautiful woman that the painting is significant because after decades of aping the West, the Japanese took on a traditional Japanese technique. Akira, as a reaction, injects that maybe it is the parrot who is teaching the woman.
The painting, I think, is the leitmotif of the movie. After spending the night at Takashi, Akira is shuttled by the professor to her university where the professor and the lover meet. Noriaki mistakes Takashi for Akira’s grandfather and so Takashi plays along, dispensing wisdom about love and relationship. At first, we instantly recognize that among the three the professor of course is the wisest but there is always the possibility that Akira is the one who has the most smarts. Who is teaching who? It’s the same theme as the lady and the parrot.
And just like the painting which takes on a traditional Japanese technique, Like Someone In Love is, I think, also patterned after a traditional Japanese art form, the Haiku. Like a Haiku, the film can be divided into three parts: Akira taking on the assignment, Takashi and Akira meeting for the first time, and the complication that arises in the end when Noriaki seemingly finds out about the two. In the movie, the tone and the point of view of the story always shift when and after a new character are introduced. In Haiku, it is called Kiru or cutting, which, according to Wikipedia, serves as a “verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.” Oo mga te, ni-research ko ito.
And for the meticulousness and the intelligence of Like Someone In Love, I was definitely blown away.