Red, Blue, Green and Drab
Fans will disagree, but Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound made a botch of Brian Aldiss' provocative Shelley/monster/Byron time-travel novel. A decade later, Lynn Hershman Leeson's Conceiving Ada took historical fact and some of the same figures and similarly defeated a terrific premise. Countess Lovelace, Ada Byron King (1815-52, played by Tilda Swinton) was the poet's daughter and a mathematical whiz, the mother of computer programming honored when our Department of Defense named artificial intelligence applications language after her. In the film, a modern female computer genius -- her guru Sims played by the Timothy Leary -- hops back a century-and-a-half, visits her long-dead counterpart, and feminism abounds, with Karen Black worked in as dual mother of both undervalued women.
Same filmmaker, same actresses, same lamentable result, for writer/director/co-producer Professor Hersham Leeson's Teknolust again overwhelms an intriguing idea through uncontrolled flamboyance of style and indecision as to how broadly tongue-in-cheek to play it.
A tired Black is not mother now but Dirty Dick, a detective of sorts called back from semi-retirement by Agents to track a "virus" which renders men impotent and bar-codes their brows. Those afflicted, it will turn out, have had hasty, unsolicited sex with the same woman, color-coordinated down to red fingernails and condoms. Bewigged out of Pulp Fiction, she wears her name Ruby on a choker and snaps mug shots of her dazed partners for filing with their preserved semen.
She is the most active of three Self-Replicating Automatons created by bio-geneticist Dr. Rosetta Stone (Swinton) from her own downloaded DNA and software. The Scottish actress is also Ruby and her two identical "sisters," restless auburn-tressed blue-coordinated Marinne, and passive blonde green-coordinated Olive. In horn-rims, plain orphaned virgin Dr. Stone keeps the project a secret, protects her three charges from the "jungle out there," and inadequately fulfills her maternal instincts.
Asleep, Ruby is programmed to classic film seductions -- Van Johnson and Donna Reed, Sinatra by Kim Novak ("You got a natural rhythm") -- so as to cruise for male Y chromosomes, vampirish nourishment for the three SRAs. Distilled, it is injected from color-coded syringes into that fleshy part of the hand which memory says is dubbed "mons venus." Living in neon-color-coded quarters, they yearn for something that, pristine as they are, they cannot quite name but which is hinted at in Ruby's signature request for a post-coital cuddle and "e-dream together."
(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.)
They don't know, but we sure do. Less creator/mother/guide than repressed fourth sister, Rosetta needs it, too. Mercifully, the sound track does not think to burst into "All You Need Is Love," but amor vincit omnia, love will find a way and everyone will be redeemed through participating with a partner.
Whether the plot is meant to be feminist, funny, slapstick, satirical, sci-fi, Wells-Crichton cautionary or all things to all men and women, the result is so leeringly self-congratulatory that little comes across. Over the "succulent protein" of red, blue, green and pink cupcakes, Ruby will find human kindness in passion with nerdy Zodiac look-alike Sandy (Jeremy Davies), who points rather than speaks, a photocopy failure with a California Jewish Mother. Olive and Marinne will find . . . well, Marinne and Olive. And Rosetta will discard the Clark Kent glasses to find "flesh, spirit, soul, icon" in the arms of a nerdy Agent (James Urbaniak) with a migrating facial Band-Aid.
From whispering M.D.s to street preachers (Thomas Jay Ryan) and punning researchers, everyone has his or her tiresome tics. Shot with the new 24p digital high-definition camera and purportedly featuring twenty minutes of high-definition graphics, the finished product is not half as clever as it thinks it is. With sneering title and sophomoric tags like "emote with your remote," Teknolust embarrassingly resembles insulting, insistent television commercials. Unfortunately, they may be the future.
(Released by ThinkFilm Inc. and rated "R" for some sexual content.)