Teknolust movie review, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Davies Josh Kornbluth, Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Karen Black

A scene from 'Teknolust'
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* star
82 minutes | Rated: R
LIMITED: Friday, August 22, 2003
Directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson

Starring Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Davies, James Urbaniak, Josh Kornbluth, Thomas Jay Ryan, Karen Black

This film is on the Worst of 2003 list.

  • Lynn Hershman Leeson
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Jeremy Davies
  • James Urbaniak
  • Josh Kornbluth
  • Karen Black

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    Pseudo-philosophical nonsense fills ill-conceived sci-fi flick about replicants who need sperm to survive

    By Rob Blackwelder

    A silly cybersexual fantasy hinged on the fetishistic sci-fi gimmick of replicant women who need sperm to survive, "Teknolust" isn't much better than what it sounds like -- a porn spoof. The fact that writer-director Lynn Hershman Leeson genuinely considers this concept a high-minded metaphor makes the eccentric comedy laughable in ways that were certainly never intended.

    A low-budget, one-dimensional concoction with art-house pretensions, the film employs such "futuristic" trappings as two-year-old candy-colored iBooks and a brushed-steel microwave that doubles as a computer terminal. But while its shoestring style may have come of necessity, the movie's absurdly ineffectual intellectualism and that-take-will-have-to-do performances are what really makes it hard to sit through.

    Odd-bird indie icon Tilda Swinton ("The Deep End," "Orlando") stars a nerdy-virgin microbiologist with the ridiculous name of Dr. Rosetta Stone. Swinton also plays Stone's home-made clones, the clumsily sultry Ruby (who always wears red), petulant, child-like Marine (blue) and shy, cerebral Olive (green) -- the first of whom has been trained, through watching old movies, to go out and seduce men with bad pick-up lines so she can bring life-giving sperm home to her sisters. (That the injections are given intravenously is all that keeps "Teknolust" from being even more ill conceived than it already is.)

    The plot turns on the fact that these men are rendered impotent by having sex with Ruby and develop a rash on their foreheads in the shape of a bar code. Soon quarantined at the very medical research facility where Dr. Stone works -- and has been hiding her breakthrough in Self Replicating Automatons (SRAs) from her fellow scientists -- the potential epidemic these men represent stumps the imbecilic researchers, who retrace their patients' steps, yet take forever to realize they'd all slept with the same woman.

    Swinton (who also starred in Hershman Leeson's much better and authentically cerebral "Conceiving Ada") provides a passable sense of out-of-sync humanity to the lonely, affection-starved Dr. Stone, despite the major distraction of her really cheap Brillo-pad wig, which is coupled with huge-frame eyeglasses to maximize her geekiness. But as the clones, Swinton seems tied down to singular, semi-robotic character traits, even as they begin exploring their own humanity, as is inevitable for all sci-fi artificial life. Ruby even falls in love with a copy-shop weirdo (the palpably introverted Jeremy Davies) who shows her more kindness than the guys she has sex with in nightclub bathrooms.

    Half-baked from concept to execution, "Teknolust" is plagued by contrivance (plot-pointing one-scene characters conveniently overhear pivotal conversations in coffee shops) and inconsistency (after all the time Ruby has spent in the real world, she still doesn't know donuts cost money and aren't called "succulent protein"). Faux-profound philosophy abounds regarding mankind's evolving relationship with technology ("Even mother boards require touch" is one wildly inaccurate metaphor), as does clumsy, one-note acting. A snooty investigator from a fictional version of the Centers for Disease Control (James Urbaniak) has a single defining personality trait: he never, ever removes his I-went-to-an-Ivy-League-college scarf. Another character always whispers for no discernable reason.

    Even the costumes have a crude, makeshift quality about them. Ruby, Marine and Olive wear fabric chokers on which their names are written -- in glitter glue.

    The very structure of Hershman Leeson's plot and the integrity of her characters begins to completely unravel in the movie's last act when all-too-easy yet entirely unexplained solutions are applied to some of the movie's big questions, while others remain unanswered, if not completely ignored. (Why isn't Stone seeking a way to sustain her replicants that doesn't involve sterilizing innocent strangers?)

    But there are few elements of "Teknolust" that could hold up under any kind of common sense scrutiny to begin with. Given a bigger budget and a director who wasn't interested in waxing philosophical, this could have been a bad Russ Meyers movie starring Pamela Anderson as a sexy scientist -- and even that might have been better than what we have here.


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