Unlike her fine work in last year’s Sundance entry “The Deep End,” Tilda Swinton is on automatic pilot and in “icon” rather than “actress” mode in “Teknolust,” her second teaming with writer-director Lynn Hershman Leeson after “Conceiving Ada.” Though presumably intended as a deadpan parody of stem-cell reproduction, the humor never quite computes in this mannered, rather silly tale of a virginal geek who sublimates her family urge through cyber-science until she finally gets a taste of the flesh-and-blood deal. While it’s stylishly designed and shot in startling colors on digital high-definition cameras, this feels like yesterday’s futuristic news, and it’s more likely to surface as a video/DVD curiosity than a theatrical draw.
Hoping to break new ground in artificial intelligence, dowdy biogeneticist Rosetta (Swinton) downloads her DNA into a computer program. She cooks up three Self Replicating Automatons, or SRAs (all played by Swinton), that look just like her, only with sleek coifs and fabulous color-contrasting Yamamoto outfits rather than her unruly mane and baggy woolens.
But like all creatures born in the lab, the clones want to get out and play. They are led by enterprising Ruby, who perfected her seduction technique by assimilating classic movie dialogue and learns to experience real feelings through trysts with a lonely misfit (Jeremy Davies).
As the SRAs stock up on the chromosome found in sperm they need to stay alive, leaving a trail of impotent men in their wake, Rosetta becomes the prime suspect in the FBI’s investigation of a suspected bioterrorist gender-warfare plot.
The contamination in the modern world between human emotion and technology is by no means a new theme and Leeson does little to freshen it up in a film that should be a lot more fun than it is. There are some out-there moments, such as Rosetta brewing protein infusions from used condoms, served to the girls in a Japanese tea service. But mostly, with its precise color schemes, heavy use of computer-graphic inserts and dialogue like “Emote from your remote” or “Sex is easy, intimacy is hard,” this plays like uninspired ’80s sci-fi.