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Archive for August 17th, 2016

58. Ex-Machina (2015)

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by Adam Ferenz

January/April 2015, 108 minutes. written and directed by Alex Garland. Starring: Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson.

Ex Machina is a film which takes one quite by surprise. This is territory which seems to have already been covered by the giants of the Cyberpunk field, such as Dick and Gibson. Even a touch of Asimov, and his I, Robot work. Yet, this is an altogether more original and tightly wound tale than it first appears. The focus is on a seemingly reclusive genius, the employee he brings to a woodland laboratory and the humanoid creation that they begin testing.The humanoid is known as Ava, and she is the result of years of experiments by Nathan Batemen, who has brought Caleb Smith to his woodland retreat-also a high security laboratory-for an indefinite period of testing the responses of Caleb and Ava to one another. This, Caleb recognizes, is part of the Turing Test, which in part holds that true artificial intelligence will only be achieved when a human being fails to recognize an AI as an AI.

In the laboratory is one other, a silent Asian woman, Kyoko. As the film progresses, we discover that she is an earlier experiment by Batemen. As the film unfolds, Caleb and Batemen come to be suspicious of one another, with Ava seemingly in danger of being turned into spare parts following this stage of evolution, which involves a liquid gel brain and realistic skin over an advanced, non-biological, frame. A frame which, Batemen lets Caleb know, includes a working vagina. This is important, because Caleb does indeed become interested in, even aroused, by Ava, and discovers that Nathan has had intercourse with his creations. (more…)

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© 2016 by James Clark

As an adage, “Never underestimate a filmmaker’s first feature,” may be overrated. (Think of Michelangelo Antonioni’s disaster, Story of a Love Affair [1950].) But, in the case of Jim Jarmusch, I think anyone who wants to measure what’s up with him and his work can’t spend enough time on Stranger than Paradise (1984). (Jarmusch did produce a student project, Permanent Vacation, in 1980; but here we want to see what happens when school’s out.)

Proximity to college film studies (even after an extended trip to Paris) could be limiting or liberating—it all depends on what the novice brings to the cultural/ academic poker table. Where, then, did he come across that beat generation testament, Pull My Daisy (1959); and how did he run with it? Pull My Daisy, a film by Robert Frank from a screenplay by Jack Kerouac, brings to collision course a stuffy bishop and his stuffy wife (invited by the wife of a railway brakeman-cum-writer) with uninvited bohemian friends of the man of the house. (The locals include Allen Ginsberg and, more interestingly, Delphine Seyrig, as the lady of the house.) This self-consciously overkill insurrection, by those self-assured to be hipster legends on having charmed the pants off Gotham’s media, for the sake of ridiculing the whole sweep of American life, shows that update of the Marx Brothers implicitly feeling entitled to the keys of the planet on the basis of their self-satisfaction with their acuity and virtue. (more…)

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