Teknolust

dir. Hershman-Leeson

Opens Fri Nov 28

Cinema 21

So there's this scientist, Rosetta Stone (Tilda Swinton), and she figures out how to make three artificially intelligent, color-coordinated clones of herself (Ruby, Marinne, and Olivia--also played by Tilda Swinton). But chromosome-wise, they're incomplete. Their only hope for continued function is Ruby, who goes out, screws dudes, keeps their sperm in the condom, comes home, boils the condom, and the three clones drink the condom-tea, and inject the sperm into their hands like insulin. It is their lifeblood. It would be totally disgusting, if the concept weren't so asinine.

But then Ruby gives all these dudes a virus, and the scientific community figures it out, and they hire Dirty Dick, a straight-talking bio-P.I. played by Karen Black, and Jeremy Davies gets cast as a socially inept chump yet again, and you kind of feel sorry for him for that, but not for his stupid character, a sensitive loser who works at a copy center and can't get laid.

This, from Lynn Hershman-Leeson, a woman who wrote and directed films such as Conceiving Ada, Seduction of a Cyborg, and Virtual Love. You can probably guess the beat she's on, making some fairly obvious swipes toward commentary--on love and connection in the internet age--and using Swinton as her mouthpiece, wasting a perfectly good actress on a film that would have probably had a decent shot at cult status in about 1987. In 2003, Teknolust just seems dated and formal; the excess of dorky winking and campy serendipity would have been more at home on USA Up All Night than art houses during wartime.

Still, because we're human, Teknolust occasionally gets us with its colorful sets (better than Next Generation) and light touches of sensitivity. One of the film's more surprising moments comes when Jeremy Davies' character tells Ruby, "It's hard to imagine why there are so many angry people out there," as they look out at the city from a rooftop.

She responds, "They're angry because they never take the moments that allow them to define their essence."

Hershman-Leeson's message is (sometimes painfully) obvious--that technology causes humanity to disconnect from itself--which is in itself an interesting concept to explore. With Teknolust, it has all the gravity, insight, and humor of a Sunday afternoon UPN series--not-funny social commentary as interpreted by V.I.P. or Cleopatra 2025.