TORONTO -- Spike Jonze finished principal photography on his upcoming tale of technological love, "Her," 14 months ago and he's been working on it ever since, tinkering, shooting new scenes, a "relentless process" that he says he's gone through on every one of his movies.
"I don't know exactly what I'm making," Jonze told me at a little reception held at the Toronto International Film Festival for "Her," in which he showed four clips from the film and talked to filmmaker and friend Kelly Reichardt about his career. "I'm always finding it along the way."
"Luckily, Joaquin [Phoenix, who stars in "Her"] is surprisingly hirsute," Jonze adds, smiling. "I could call him [for a reshoot] and it's like he'd grow that mustache back overnight."
Phoenix plays Theodore, a man who falls in love with an artificial intelligence operating system (the voice of Scarlett Johansson). One clip showed Theodore working in his office at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, a service (straight out of Jonze's "Being John Malkovich") apparently designed to relieve humans from ever again having to compose a thank-you card or congratulatory note.
Jonze also showed scenes in which Theodore purchases the operating system, hears its throaty voice for the first time (you could also call it "flinty"), takes it on a day trip to the beach and then confesses to a friend (Amy Adams) that he's fallen for her (or it ... or whatever).
For the flavor of it, watch the trailer:
After the last clip showed, the lights came up and Reichardt asked, "Is this you wanting to get rid of all the real women in the world and replace them?"
Jonze evaded the question, as he did with most of Reichardt's queries, which was part of the conversation's charm. Both filmmakers are essentially shy, wonky types, artists much more at home creating things than talking about them. When Reichardt asked Jonze, "I can never tell ... are you afraid of technology or in love with it?" Jonze took a digressive turn or two before finally surrendering.
"The movie, to me, is about our desire to connect or the need to connect," Jonze said, "and how quickly technology has changed our lives in this newest incarnation -– the Internet and digital technology. But I was also always trying to make a relationship movie and a love story and examine relationships and love. So technology, and the way we live with technology, is obviously part of that story, but it's also only part of this story."
He then paused for effect.
"So to answer your question succinctly? I don't know."
"Her" opens in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto on Dec. 18, expanding nationwide on Jan. 10.