The Artifice Girl Review: Compelling AI Sci-Fi Premise Hides Buggy’s Source Code

An AI machine that catches pedophiles learns its way to sentience in writer/director Franklin Ritch the artifice girl. But no matter how convincing a premise, full of more substantiated ethical questions, black mirror that Bounty hunter, value understated style over functional software. A small cast of performers and a stage-play-like production, divided into three restrained decades-jumping acts and single-location settings, keep the indie charmingly subdued, but the film is just as literal when it draws attention to its own themes. underdeveloped that boldly challenges you to be ignorant of the most basic philosophical points of the genre.

This first dive into the world of sentient machines moves the strong ideas associated with rapidly advancing technology away from the flashy pessimism of film noir and into the identifiable self-awareness of mumblecore. But by flipping subgenres, Ritch’s say-don’t-show approach puts all of his weight on his script, by far. the artifice girlThe weakest element of . When I criticize saying and not showing, I am still speaking in the traditional sense. Seeing the strain of a Voight-Kampff test on a replicant is much more fun and effective than a voiceover explaining the concept. But I am also referring to the more modern form that afflicts some genre films. The way he fills the air with endless speeches about trauma, gaslighting, racism, free will, and all the other hard thematic brambles that, when not given such rude vocal attention, could stick to our clothes as we walk out of the theater. But without any trust in us, movies like the artifice girl just describe what it’s like to think about the big issues, rather than being inspired to think about them ourselves. We leave the theater with nothing but the ringing in our ears of being talked to for an hour and a half.

Of course, the entire 93 minutes is not like that. When programmer Garreth (Ritch) is initially locked in an interrogation room with agents Deena (Sinda Nichols) and Amos (David Girard), the densely blocked, chatty actors buzz with electricity as we choke on claustrophobia. Is Garreth really trying to stop the predators, or is his motives more murky? And what about the experience of him in VFX of him, shamelessly noting the digital necromancy that he has performed in the last Star Wars? The strong opening act reflects its premise: familiar, yet specific enough to grab us; the right combination of elements of genre and boiled procedure. It is also the section of the film that relies heavily on its older cast. Cherry (Tatum Matthews), Garreth’s AI, still doesn’t have much to do. She appears on screen, a bewildered blonde girl with blue eyes, as a novel piece of visual storytelling. We analyze her face and her speech, looking for falsehood or truth. Telltale signs of humanity or machinery. She becomes a part of the plot rather than the emotional and ideological center of the film.

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But as Ritch’s film strides into its second and third segments, more and more emphasis is placed on Cherry’s sensibility and Matthews’ performance. Older actors have the double luxury of experience and of playing human beings: Ritch doesn’t ask them to add affectation to his clumsy script. But Matthews needs to be convincing but amazing. He needs to poke fun at the artificiality and then convey near-perfect superhumanity as the full extent of his abilities becomes apparent. Instead, he sounds rushed and without nuance. You can hear the script in his words. This comes to a head when he confronts Lance Henriksen (playing an old Garreth) in the terrible final act. Ritch has his desperately garish monologues up his nose, while Henriksen’s seasoned seriousness makes the whole thing seem even more cartoonish. it is low resolution Western worldwith its great creator-creation confrontation at maximum volume.

The screeching dissonance between the artifice girlThe aesthetic and theme of , most obviously and ironically embodied by the film’s non-human character, show how the filmmakers allowed the practical constraints of budget, time, and technology to shape their art rather than overcome them with rudimentary innovation. Visual symbols are sparse (a chess game is the most obvious in every way), while Cherry’s transition from screen-based VTuber to tangible Android is creatively wasted. Why let her into this big 3D world of ours if you’re still going to sit there mostly shooting still shots/inverted shots? And even then, the anxious, talkative hesitation of her characters, which at times pleasantly allows the subgenre to heighten the theme, is outweighed by the need to explain.

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Much of independent science fiction succeeds in cloaking its speculation in ambiguity. The abstract danger of Under the skin. The unknowable realism of the endless. the artifice girlHis economical use of locations, cast and camera settings gives him an underdog look, but his devotion to expressing every possible point of post-screening conversation puts him more in line with blockbusters. softer gender. His questions about cruelty, about our evolving relationship with machines and what that in turn will do to our laws and relationships with each other, are not unwarranted, they are so direct that they can feel less like drama and more like PowerPoint. . the artifice girl It shows promise from writer/director/star Ritch in his ability to bring a sci-fi idea to the finish line, but it takes a lot more imagination to pull off his artifice.


Director: Franklin Ritch
Writer: Franklin Ritch
Starring: David Girard, Lance Henriksen, Tatum Matthews, Sinda Nichols, Franklin Ritch
Release date: July 23, 2022 (Fantasy Film Festival)



Jacob Oller is a film editor at Paste Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @jacoboller.

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