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S1m0ne

Year: 2002
Studio: New Line Cinema
Director: Andrew Niccol
Producer: Andrew Niccol
Writer: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Al Pacino, Winona Ryder, Elias Koteas, Catherine Keener, Jay Mohr
Every time I watch one of his films it reminds me how Andrew Niccol is one of the best and most underrated filmmakers around. He's an 'issues' guy that makes you forget you're watching an issues movie. Whether it's genetic tampering (Gattaca) or the small arms flooding the world (Lord of War), his films are as entertaining as any summer blockbuster.

Though ignored by distributors and mostly written off, S1m0ne is as cutting and brilliantly conceived as his other two notable films. The issue this time is three pronged - digital technology sucking the human soul out of the creative arts, the role of fakery itself in entertainment and the hype-driven nature of media. Just because we didn't know we were being lied to, what right would we have to be angry that S1m0ne isn't a rela person, the movie asks?

Pacino is Viktor, a producer whose movie is falling apart when his star walks. A late night visit by an enigmatic computer scientist (Koteas) delivers a miracle - a digital character for the movie that he can pass off as a real actress.

The problem is the movie and digital star become so popular everyone wants a piece of her. And when Viktor can't deliver, he tries to deflect attention by making his star a recluse so he can avoid her making a public appearance she obviously can't.

But S1m0ne's apparent shyness just adds to her mystique, and Viktor's world spins out of control all over again as he covers up more lies with more tricks and paints himself into an ever-more dangerous corner. One of the funniest scenes is when he symbolically locks S1m0ne in a trunk and sinks her off the end of a pier to get the whole mess out of his life. Caught on a CCTV camera, he's then accused of killing her out of jealousy at her success and has to try and convince everyone she was never real to clear his name.

It's about both the incredible creative accomplishments the media brings us - such as the concert staged with a hologram of the star that the stadium audience thinks is real - and the insatiable nature of the media to both feed and eat itself to all our spiritual detriment.

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