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    Tek is cheap

    Lynn Hershman Leeson's low-budget feminist sci-fi comedy "Teknolust" reflects a lower-tech, lower-budget A.I. world than Steven Spielberg's.


    A professor as well as a practitioner of digital art, director Lynn Hershman Leeson seems equally fascinated with artificial intelligence, DNA and the actresses Tilda Swinton and Karen Black, both of whom appeared in the filmmaker's debut film, "Conceiving Ada." Leeson claimed to have structured that first film in groupings based on the double helix of the DNA molecule and Swinton played only one role: Lord Byron's daughter, Ada Byron King, believed to be the mother of computer technology.

    Written and directed by: Lynn Hershman-Leeson.
    Cast: Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Davies, James Urbaniak, Karen Black, Josh Kornbluth, John O'Keefe, Al Nazemian, Thomas J. Ryan, Abigail Van Alyn, Paule West, John Bradford King, John Pirruccello, Dick Bright.
    Cinematography: Hiro Narita.

    Related links: Official site
    In "Teknolust," Leeson's aptly titled sophomore effort, Swinton plays no fewer than four roles. She's first seen as the ironically named, uptight bio-geneticist, Rosetta Stone, who comes up with a formula to download her own DNA into her computer and thereby clone three SRA's — Self Replicating Automatons. Named after the primary colors of Rosetta's computer motherboard, they are the color-coordinated Ruby, Olive and Marine.

    In the preface to "Frankenstein," her classic 1818 horror tale, Mary Shelly wrote, "My imagination... guided me. ... I saw, with shut eyes, but acute mental vision... the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then ... signs of life... supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

    Leeson's cyber-age mama-drama updates Shelley's 19th-century concept. While Rosetta may well be the loopy great-great grand-daughter of that earlier mad scientist, her 21st-century creations are neither male nor frightening. Rather, they're three lusty wenches created by a repressed, overly protective (and slightly jealous) mother.

    Ruby, Olive and Marine each represent various aspects of their own creator's personality. Although beautiful and holographic, they still need some part of men to exist, namely a continuous supply of "chromo," found in semen and collected in condoms during serial seductions by Ruby during regular forays outside the computer. Rosetta may be a nurturing "parent," but girls just wanna' have fun and eventually the creations rebel against "mumsy."

    Ruby, who also stars in her own web portal show (, goes on more and more unsupervised outside visits to "feed" her sisters. Sex with Ruby engenders a strange epidemic of seemingly untreatable impotence among her bar-code marked victim/partners including Josh Kornbluth ("Haikku Tunnel") and Thomas Jay Ryan ("Henry Fool"). Enter an androgynous Karen Black as Dirty Dick, a gravel-voiced private detective; indie fave James Urbaniak ("Henry Fool") as a government agent spouting bio-gender warfare theories; and Jeremy Davies as the copy shop geek who conducts his copiers and actually watches Ruby's portal on the web.

    As a digital performance piece, "Teknolust" has a certain charm, but as a full-fledged feature it feels like an amusing one-trick pony extended to 80-plus minutes. Either way you still get all those multiple Tildas. If her Rosetta owes a debt to Mia Farrow, her accumulated clones seem more like a collection of nave replicas of the "Sex & the City" gals.

    A note to Jeremy Davies — you need a serious image adjustment dude, so do NOT accept the next geek role you're offered — oops too late! He'll be appearing as Charles Manson in a new made-for-TV movie!

    FEBRUARY 27, 2004

    Reader comments on Teknolust:

  • Teknolust   from Chris, Dec 17, 2004

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