'Creative Control': Film Review

Courtesy of SXSW
A stylish parable of our tech-mediated existence

Google Glass-like tech is an even worse idea than you think.

A hipster take on the way technology threatens to isolate us instead of bringing us closer together, Benjamin Dickinson's Creative Control imagines marketers hawking a cooler-than-thou alternative to Google Glass. When one of them starts using a prototype to augment sexual fantasies, the specs' ubiquitous interface causes more damage to his real-world relationship than an addiction to Internet porn would, going so far as to threaten his grasp on reality. More stylishly compelling and seamlessly produced than it is imaginative, Dickinson's buzzed-about sophomore picture will attract much more attention than his 2012 debut, First Winter, and could do well in an art house run.

The director plays David, whose small firm has been given the task of helping "Augmenta" glasses compete against their unnamed Goliath-like competitor. David's first response is to enlist "a genius-level creative" who can help the company see uses for the wearable computer that they might not have imagined. That "genius" is Reggie Watts (playing himself), whose druggy blend of standup comedy and experimental music makes him a Brooklynite's natural choice to play digital shaman. (Watts has worked with Dickinson on previous shorts.)

David and his bosses will soon learn why artists so rarely succeed as entrepreneurs. In the meantime, though, David argues with his yoga-instructor girlfriend Juliette (Nora Zehetner) and consoles himself by playing with Augmenta's image-capture features, taking stored videos of his attractive coworker Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen) and mapping them onto a simulated woman the glasses project, naked and compliant, before his eyes.

Stressed and overworked, David starts to conflate time spent with this simulation with the overtures he's making toward the real woman — a confusion enabled by the fact that so much of this flirtation happens via text. Dickinson stages some of these liminal interactions beautifully, and shooting in widescreen black-and-white adds another layer of romanticizing distance between us, the characters and their desires. Still, David's digital Sophie might as well be an inflatable doll when compared with the artificial intelligence played by Scarlett Johansson in Her, a film that had so much more to say about love, computer-created simulacra, and the like.

As for the soul-corroding possibilities of an always-on recording and computing device, Control mostly ignores them, ceding that ground to the brilliant The Entire History of You, an episode of the Black Mirror anthology series scripted by Jesse Armstrong and directed by Brian Welsh. History also dealt with young professionals, their troubled relationships and our tendency to lose ourselves in the world as electronic devices present it to us; despite being set in a slightly more science-fictional universe, it felt more like a picture of where we are right now.

Production companies: Ghost Robot, Greencard Pictures

Cast: Benjamin Dickinson, Nora Zehetner, Dan Gill, Alexia Rasmussen, Reggie Watts, Paul Manza, Gavin Mcinnes, Himanshu “Heems" Suri, Jake Lodwick

Director: Benjamin Dickinson

Screenwriters: Benjamin Dickinson, Micah Bloomberg

Producers: Craid Shilowich, Melody C. Roscher, Mark De Pace, Zachary Mortensen

Executive producers: Cameron Brodie, Greg Steward, Emily Wiedemann

Director of photography: Adam Newport-Berra

Production designer: John Furgason

Costume designer: Gina Correll

Editors: Megan Brooks, Andrew Hasse

Music: Dražen Bošnjak

Casting directors: Eve Battaglia, Karin Sibrava

Sales: Linzee Troubh, Cinetic Media

No rating, 96 minutes

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