Los Angeles doesn’t seem a logical place to host a film festival. After all, film is everywhere in this city, all year round; Angelenos hardly need an annual reminder of its existence. Yet the LA Film Festival, which came to a close last weekend, lets Hollywood know that there are movies being made elsewhere: for instance, this year’s Laff schedule included Wadjda, the first feature by a female Saudi director, Haifaa al-Mansour.
The other benefit of a film festival in LA is its ability to attract local talent. And so, last Saturday, at a packed cinema in downtown, on the penultimate evening of the Laff, the director Spike Jonze sat down “in conversation with” his friend and fellow filmmaker David O Russell, and recalled having shot much of his early, iconic work just blocks from the theatre: skateboard videos, music promos – even those surreal scenes from his Oscar-nominated Being John Malkovich (1999), set on “Floor 7½” of a nearby office building.
Jonze also presented a pair of five-minute scenes from his next film, tentatively entitled Her. Set in a “slight-future” Los Angeles, it stars Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely thirtysomething who just acquired his copy of OS1, the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system.
The system tailors itself to his personality, names itself Samantha, and takes on the voice of Scarlett Johansson. Soon enough, the man begins to fall in love with his software. It’s a timely premise, filtered through Jonze’s unique sensibility to create something potentially extraordinary. LA saw it first.