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Designing the perfect woman

by Critical Commons Manager

In Andrew Niccol's reprehensible 2002 feature film S1mone, Al Pacino plays an aging, high art film director struggling to maintain his career in an overly commercialized Hollywood studio. After stumbling into possession of a technology that allows for the creation of digital actors, Pacino single-handedly begins production on a new film that requires the creation of the perfect woman, S1mone, played by Niccol's real-world wife, Rachel Roberts.

To create the ideal starlet, Pacino naturally turns to the database of ideal women from the history of Hollywood. Declaring that "a star is digitized," Pacino announces the industry's exuberant entry into a new dimension marked by the "death of real." Dialing down the Meryl Streep and dialing up the Lauren Bacall, Pacino sprinkles on a bit of Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's until she is "perfect."

When Pacino begins ventriloquizing an intimate conversation with his on-screen creation, we may momentarily question his sanity and stability as a character, or at least the potentially disruptive gender politics of a male director who literally speaks for and through his female character, while simultaneously claiming to find fulfillment through her existence. Unfortunately, this narrative vector goes unexplored as the conversation turns to a predictable reassertion of the importance of art and integrity in the creative process, positioned in contrast with the "ones and zeroes" of computer code, which is tellingly reduced to "nothing."

This scene's repeated use of value-laden terms such as "fake" and "fraud" gives away the filmmakers' commitment to a nostalgic - and totally non-ironic - vision of Hollywood authenticity. The film remains unable to interrogate its own gender politics, to say nothing of the history of Hollywood's culpability in manufacturing the terms of desire for American culture's standards of beauty. Pacino instead retreats into a banal soliloquy about technology's need for true artistic vision and the reassertion of the genuine, ultimately lamenting "what's real any more?"

S1mone creation scene

Another instance of designing the perfect woman on computer

from S1mone (2002)
Creator: Andrew Niccol
Posted by Critical Commons Manager
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