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  •  REVIEW: W.I.S.O.R.

    W.I.S.O.R.

    It's 'Bot time

    An engineering team builds a robot that will brave 300-degree heat to fix New York's underground steam pipes in the interesting though slightly mishandled documentary "W.I.S.O.R."

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    For those who remember a couple of years ago when it seemed like every week a century-old buried pipe burst, closing Manhattan streets, sparking large fires and opening up huge, car-swallowing sinkholes, here's a look at how you handle an underground disaster like that.

      
    W.I.S.O.R.
    Directed by: Michel Negroponte.
    "W.I.S.O.R." follows a New York engineering team as it builds the Welding and Inspections Steam Operations Robot, a massive, self-propelled cylindrical pipe cleaner.

    The challenges are immense — W.I.S.O.R. must be able to withstand 300-degree heat in the steam pipes that run under New York, blow up a balloon that will hold the steam back while it works, cut and weld metal pipes, and never get stuck.

    The documentary works best when it respects the drama of its own story. The engineering problem and the struggles of the robot-building team prove interesting enough to carry the film, and some good-natured joking and off-the-subject philosophical ranting break up the seriousness of the project.

    W.I.S.O.R.  
    There are even some unintentionally funny moments in the all-male workshop (considering the project's Freudian implications) when the crew exclaims, "We have rigidity!" and later, after a software failure, laments, "This has never happened before."

    Unfortunately, the makers have watered down their film somewhat with a strange machine-voice narration which, rather than dramatizing the man-versus-machine saga, verges on the inane.

    Still, the basics of the techie drama come through and the film is well worth seeing. You'll never look at one of those orange, steam-spewing smokestacks in the street the same way again.

    MAY 31, 2000
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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