‘Ex Machina’ and ‘Lost River’s’ Male Dances Of Domination

04.13.15 2 years ago

“In answer to your question, you bet she can f*ck.”

In this phrase alone, Oscar Isaac's character Nathan reveals more about himself than his beautiful new A.I. Ava in “Ex Machina.”

Alex Garland's directorial debut is less about the future of females, “Ex Machina” is actually more a portrait of creators and human men, who fancy themselves as exceptional men if not gods.

Nathan — a billionaire CEO of a tech company — is intimidating, athletic, confident, self-congratulatingly brilliant. He sports a heftily landscaped beard, lives in his own manicured version of Eden-esque wilderness where his top secret mission is to create a version of an A.I. where “she” is indistinguishable from a human. Nathan's version of “her” is beautiful, small, gentle and cunning.

But of all the wide and small definitions of what makes a female human a female, Nathan chose not to tout “her” ability to (for instance) reproduce, but — in his selection of terminology — her ability to f*ck.

As the title infers, the question of whom the “deus” in the enduring phrase “deus ex machina” — god from the machine — is the film's (ahem) beating heart.  Nathan struts opposite of Domnhall Gleeson's other Biblically monikered “pal” Caleb, whose own masculinity is rendered nominal under the watchful eye of his tech-obsessed host.

Nathan and Caleb intellectually wrestle with perfecting Ava, the robot. As they do, they reveal themselves to be more human: flawed, creative, habitual, selfish, personal, paranoid, persuasive, desperate, sexual, self-aware. Both “man” up. Nathan's punctuation mark on his macho'isms reach nadir in a magnificent scene with he and actress Sonoya Mizuno, as they disco in-sync to Oliver Cheatham's “Get Down Saturday Night.”

Here's the While We're Young x Ex Machina dance-off you didn't know you needed.

Posted by A24 on Thursday, April 16, 2015

It's not unlike something you'd see in a “Saturday Night Fever.” Nathan boogies not just to assert what makes he and his dance partner the most human, but the most dominant of the two, of he and Caleb.

The point of Nathan's dance is not to allure, but to intimidate, to assert a superior, god-like status. And to be fair, it is divine.

Ben Mendelsohn has his own snake-in-the-garden dance he reserved for Ryan Gosling's “Lost River,” as his character Dave shakes a tail feather at/toward/for Billy (Christina Hendricks) during forbidding Glass Candy song “Shell Game,” as she's helpless and immobilized to either retort or deny his hypnotic hips.

To Dave, it fits a pattern of domination, over a woman who has repeatedly rejected his sexual advances. His dance is not a seduction but an extension of subjection. Dave is a gigantic scumball, and a lousy though unbridled dancer.

Who are gods within the realms of “Ex Machina” and “Lost River” are the men who dare to dance.

From Pee-Wee Herman to West Side Story, the Male Dance Of Dominance has a place in our cultural and cinamatic history. Turn up the volume and see if you can step up.

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