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TEKNOLUST(director/writer: Lynn Hershman Leeson; cinematographer: Hiro Narita; editor: Lisa Fruchtman; music: Klaus Badelt; cast: Tilda Swinton (Rosetta Stone/Ruby/Marinne/Olivia), Jeremy Davies (Sandy), James Urbaniak (Agent Hopper), Karen Black (Dirty Dick), Al Nazemian (Dr. Bea), Josh Kornbluth (Tim), Thomas Jay Ryan (Preacher), John O’Keefe (Crick); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Oscar Gubernati/John Bradford King/Youssef Vahabzadeh/Lynn Hershman Leeson; ThinkFilm Inc.; 2002)
“A silly mad scientist film dealing mostly with feminist issues.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

San Francisco-based Lynn Hershman Leeson (“Conceiving Ada”) is the director-writer of the offbeat indie campy high-tech Teknolust, a sci-fi black comedy that wrestles with postmodern feminist issues, a mysterious self-replicating virus, cyber-space sexual fantasies and cyber-space advancements in genetics and artificial intelligence. If it weren’t so mired in half-baked techie things and too many ill-conceived concepts to fully follow, I might have gotten a better feeling for what it was trying to do. It never developed its wild-eyed concepts into a cohesive dramatic concept, but seemed to be shooting only for the joke about cyber-space sex. Leeson had better success with Conceiving Ada, which also starred the beautiful and talented Tilda Swinton. What I took away from all the seductive techie scenes was the weird humor, that sometimes clicked (a high-tech picture phone that’s really a microwave oven).

Leeson said she was inspired by the Frankenstein story. It was shot on Sony’s 24P high-definition digital video in 20 days, and the brilliant photography by outstanding cinematographer Hiro Narita gives the film a sharp-edged look.

Tilda Swinton plays a nerdy geneticist-programmer (Dr. Rosetta Stone) as well as her three experimental robotic self-replicating automatons (SRAs) she cloned by downloading her own DNA, the aggressive sexually active Ruby, the sullen Marinne, and the sweet but shy Olive. The color-coded clones are named after the red, blue and green pixels found on computer screens, and all wear clothes that are color-coordinated to match their names.

The attractive Ruby, programmed with romantic scenes from Hollywood movies such as Algiers, The Man With The Golden Arm and The last Time I Saw Paris, cruises the streets at night to proposition men in order to collect semen that the gals brew up as tea. The gals need this as a stimulant to keep pace with life. After Ruby has impersonal sex with over 30 men, they all come down with a mysterious rash and a numbered bar code on their forehead, impotence and each has their hard-drive crash. These strange reactions to sex are reported to Federal Agent Hopper (James Urbaniak), who investigates Rosetta’s activities as a possible clue to the epidemic. He is abetted by a transsexual private detective named Dirty Dick (Karen Black), who brings to the table a strange feminist conspiracy theory.

There’s also a love story attempted between the human-like Ruby (part machine and part living organism) and an incompetent timid twentysomething photo copy worker named Sandy (Jeremy Davies), who twitches a lot and has finally found a woman who is not upset with him–someone he can bring home to mom.

It was stylishly entertaining, but was only enjoyable as a silly mad scientist film dealing mostly with feminist issues and matters of love that require a new set of morals in a sexually changing world.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”