Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Heart Machine

The latest entry in the burgeoning Zachcore movement (see also Zach Clark, Zach Fleming, Zac Stuart-Pontier, Zach Weintraub — Zac[k/h]s Snyder and Braff go without saying much), Zachary Wigon's The Heart Machine debuted at this year’s South by Southwest and subsequently garnered praise from outlets like Filmmaker and Variety before bowing at BAMcinemaFest. Hitchcock sneeringly referred to a certain type of spectator as "the Implausibles," and I’ll chance a hanging of that one on myself given the problems I have with this otherwise interesting movie that sees the world through the prism of a broken Rear Window.

Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil) first appears via Skype window in conversation with her virtual, declared-real-boyfriend Cody (John Gallagher, Jr.). The Skype-relationship / FaceTime-conversation has by now become a premise-convention of modern cinema, and commonly plays as crucial a function as the telephones in Dial M for Murder or Hawks' His Girl Friday. Video-chat is a keystone of present communication, allowing visual intimacy but at a remove, and thus parallels the existential experience of living in New York City, land of windows and projected fictions, i.e. plausibilities. Communication sans the fluency physical vicinity can grant. You see, the conceit of the movie is that these two have met on OKCupid, and throughout the course of all the daily Skyping, Cody thinks Virginia’s based in Berlin; in fact, she's keeping mum on the truth, that she lives somewhere around the East Village. That’s all revealed twenty minutes into the film, so I’m not giving away what would have been the plot-twist twenty or fifteen minutes from the end of a Hollywood version. (Don't be surprised if a production company buys up the rights for a big-budget remake.)

Why does a dog-bark in the background of Virginia’s Skype tip Cody off that this woman might not be subletting in Germany, instead is probably based closer to Chinatown? Did he hear the same bark at the same time outside his own (bedroom) window? Does he make a habit of video-capturing their discussions so he can review them at a later date? Is the screengrab of Virginia hanging on the wall of Cody's closet evidence that this is the reason he video-captures — to harvest ideal mementoes? But wherefore the paranoia that she may-not-be-where-she-says-she-is, indicated by the Rivettian mappage all marked-up and tacked beneath the closet rod?

There are other questions: Why in the end would anyone ever ditch Kate Sheil (especially not in psycho-Sun Don’t Shine / -Silver Bullets mode), even after Virginia's admission of what’s turned out to be a relatively innocuous put-on — and especially after the boyfriend has undertaken a rather much-less-innocuous quest to uncover the reality of her situation. The stages of the quest — which include the befriending of a neighborhood barista, and the seduction of a woman tagged in a Facebook photo with Virginia whom Cody stalks to a queue outside a club — are so incredible as to beggar belief, but the business attached to each encounter involving breaking into the unwitting parties' iPhones and Macs is so ridiculous as to be downright thrilling in its narrative audacity. I suppose Wigon has Cody fuck a drunk girl on the concrete floor of the club's backroom to show this character's not without a libido, and to parallel Virginia's earlier sleeping with an investment banker ("iBanker") she met on Blendr.

Why did Virginia tell Cody she was in Berlin, and not in Manhattan, in the first place? (1) A narrative caprice. (2) As a caprice. New York 2014 is virtually a playground: a jungle-gym of scaffolding, stairwells, window displays and brickface murals, an armature for every amusement a body could wish for in a matter of blocks. A paradox of movement and stasis afforded by all the tech and apps that further 'iterate' the city with a layer of "enhanced" reality.

In the obsessive quest, to uncover is to possess. Or put another way: to be uncovered is to be possessed; freedom is evasion and anonymity.

Remember we live in a world where most movies never know what they want to say about voyeurism.


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