Spike Jonze and Hollywood’s Tug-of-War
“The other day, I was lucky enough to be at an event to bring the arts back into schools and got to see an amazing collaboration between Yo-Yo Ma and a young dancer in LA, Lil Buck. Someone who knows Yo-Yo Ma had seen Lil Buck on YouTube and put them together. The dancing is Lil Buck's own creation and unlike anything I've seen. Hope you enjoy.”
This is the preface given by Spike Jonze, to a video he filmed in April of 2011. In this video, an L.A. street dancer named Lil Buck performs a style of dance, which is commonly referred to as “gangster walking”, while classical musician Yo-Yo Ma accompanies him on the cello. The performance cannot be ...view middle of the document...
In this video, one does not even begin to realize until about 30 seconds in that something is a little strange. Then, the realization slowly dawns on the viewer that the whole video was actually filmed with the band doing everything backwards. Afterwards in post-production, the entire video was reversed to make their motion appear normal. That is, until the band members begin levitating off the ground and even onto trucks at certain points.
Jonze again manipulates different filmmaking techniques to create a distortion of reality in which the audience sympathizes with a desk lamp, in a commercial that he directed for Ikea. In this commercial, a woman is throwing out her old lamp. Spike Jonze does something very interesting after the woman picks up the lamp. The camera follows the lamp as it’s being carried out of the apartment, and then shows the apartment from the lamp’s point of view, as if it had eyes, and could see that it was leaving the warmth of the apartment. Then the lamp is taken outside, and the warmness disappears. The lamp is now left in a harsh, cold environment, with garbage on either side of it. Spike Jonze uses the wind effectively, as it makes the lamp rattle, almost as if it is shivering. Jonze utilizes all all of these elements of filmmaking, the camera movement, the shot composition, the lighting, in a way that makes us feel sympathy for an inanimate object.
Not only is Jonze able to distort reality through the technical aspects of filmmaking, he does it through his stories as well. In Being John Malkovich, Jonze incorporates real life actor – John Malkovich – into the film’s narrative. The film follows a puppeteer named Craig who discovers a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich. Once you enter the portal, you experience the world as if you were a view looking out through Malkovich’s eyes. After 15 minutes, you are ejected from his mind and dropped in a ditch on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Jonze takes the incorporation of real people and the “meta” elements of Being John Malkovich and takes them one step further in his follow-up film, Adaptation. This time, the main character of the film is Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Being John Malkovich. However, Kaufman does not play himself, and is instead played by Nicholas Cage. The film even begins on a fabricated version of the set of Being John Malkovich. The film follows Kaufman’s attempts to adapt the novel “The Orchid Thief” into a feature length film. Real life author Susan Orleans is a main character in the film, played by Meryl Streep. By incorporating real people into a fictitious story, Jonze is creating a world that may bare semblance to reality, but is ultimately distorted.
Jonze distorts reality in order to bring a sense of uniqueness to otherwise conventional pieces of filmmaking. Without the reversed footage, the music video for “Drop” would have just been a video of guys walking down the street rapping. But the reversed footage gives the rappers a...