Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: The Love Machine

By Mike Everleth ⋅ May 11, 2000

This might be one of those little things that bother only me, but I’ve noticed a disturbing new trend.

For just about every big movie coming out this summer, none of their posters, banners or TV commercials list the credits of the filmmakers.

In the past, the credits on movie posters have been a big deal. There have been legal decisions to put the director’s name last, where the writer’s name goes (e.g. next to the director’s or not), how many writers can be credited on the poster, what order the actors’ names go. For every name on a movie poster, a battle has been waged to put it there. The credits don’t happen accidentally or by chance. And now, they don’t seem to happen at all.

As a moviegoer, this disappoints me. It’s one of the main deciding factor if I want to go see a film or not. It’s important to know Ridley Scott directed GLADIATOR. I’m intrigued that John Woo is directing MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 and it’s even more interesting that Robert Towne is the sole scriptwriter (the reason the first film was an awful, convoluted mess is because about 6 writers worked on it). It’s kinda neat that Bryan Singer (THE USUAL SUSPECTS) has directed X-MEN. But how does one come by this information? It’s tough, but you gotta dig deep.

But, as an aspiring screenwriter (yes, still), this disappoints me, also. When I finally do write that magical script that gets produced, do I want to see my name up in lights? No, not really. I just want it on the poster. Screenwriters have fought for many, many years to be properly credited and now they are not at all. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone to see a movie just because a writer scripted it, but I’ve certainly avoided a few (anything by Akiva Goldsman).

I don’t know. It seems strange. But it’s probably just me.

Going to the other extreme, there’s the rare instance where too much credit can ruin a movie, the obvious example being of course THE LOVE MACHINE, which makes a mistake of almost BLAIR WITCH PROJECT proportions, except I can’t prove who’s in the wrong here.

After THE LOVE MACHINE ended last night I was ready to blast Mike White’s kickass zine CASHIERS DU CINEMART in this review. Mike reviewed the film when he saw it at last year’s Chicago Underground Film Festival. I almost saw the film at the New York Underground Film Festival, but I opted instead to catch BLACK & GOLD, which ultimately got cancelled and I never saw (see Day 2 of my festival review).

So, here it is two months later and THE LOVE MACHINE is playing at the new Two Boots Pioneer Theater, which has been showing some classic alternative cinema in its short existence.

Like everybody else who discusses this film I am now going to ruin it. I figure most people aren’t going to ever catch this flick, but if yer interested in this movie and don’t want it ruined before you see it, stop reading this review now. I think my movie credits tirade above is entertaining enough.

THE LOVE MACHINE is a documentary about perverts on the Internet. An NYU grad student uses the campus web servers to set up a site called www.thelovemachine.com, where people can anonymously post their pornographic fantasies and pictures. Through some technical trickery, the site’s webmaster is able to obtain a few of the real names of the anonymous amateur pornographers for the filmmaker, a 40-something woman named Becca. Then, under false pretenses Becca interviews these people, all of whom work for NYU, for a fake movie about diversity on the campus. She interviews a gay black man; a female Japanese exhibitionist; a lonely, fat divorced woman; an adulterous Latino man and a closeted Japanese homosexual engaged to a woman.

Becca tries to trick all of her subjects into talking about their private Internet sex lives, but they all claim to not even really know what computers are practically. So, since none of the interviewees are honest with Becca, she ambushes each and every one of them, shows them their web pages and forces them to talk about their personal deviant behavior.

It’s pretty horrible what Becca does, invading people’s privacy and everything, but it makes you wonder if she’s not doing the “right” thing. The gay black guy and the divorced chick don’t really have their lives affected that their deepest secrets are now revealed. But Becca confronts the cheating Latino guy’s wife and his mistresses about how much of a scumbag he is. The Japanese homosexual is forced to confront the fiancée he’s been lying to. And the exhibitionist chick has to come to terms with the true nature of her relationship with her sexaholic boyfriend.

But here’s the problem, and which was contributed to by CASHIERS DU CINEMART, the New York Underground Film Festival catalog and the Pioneer Theater’s monthly flyer: The documentary is a fake. Becca is not the filmmaker. Some guy named Gordon Eriksen is. Becca is just an actress, as is all of her subjects.

I don’t know. What’s the point of making a fake documentary if yer not doing it to screw with people’s heads? I already blasted the makers of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT for doing this last year. I found THE LOVE MACHINE ultimately boring. At 85 minutes, the movie feels like it drags on forever. And normally, I would be mad at myself for ruining the movie’s secret to everyone reading this, but it seems to be marketed as a mock-doc. Mike White claims he knew it wasn’t a true documentary before going into see it, so it must not be a “secret”.

I guess I missed the whole point of the flick then. I just didn’t get into everyone’s lives nor did I care what happened to them, except for maybe the Japanese guy. The only truly great scene is when he “comes out” to two of his Japanese friends which was the most “real” scene. But, duh, where was the scene where he came out to his fiancée? Maybe it wouldn’t have been realistic that he would have done that on camera, but this was a fake documentary, they could have faked it and made it seem realistic. But, like I said, I don’t think I got the point of the whole thing.

Finally, do yourself a favor and check out CASHIERS DU CINEMART on the web. It’s a really smart, fun zine about the best movies you ain’t watching.