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Tue August 20, 2002
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
By John DeSando - WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Responding to my recent web review of "The Emperor's New Clothes," in which I praised the cinematographer's shot of a sunrise, a crew member gently wrote to me he and some other special effects people had worked a few weeks to create that shot. I felt like Michael Bay, director of "Pearl Harbor," who allegedly couldn't tell the difference between his original footage and the digital ones.
Andrew Niccol's "Simone," starring Al Pacino, has a conceit that points up my unusual moment of naivet? with that sunrise: Pacino's director has lost his female lead, forcing him to create a digital actress, played with undigital beauty by Rachel Roberts. The world believes she is real and forces him to continue his deception. This conceit, like the "Truman Show, which Niccol wrote," is bright: we all are part of the joke with our fawning over our fantasy stars and our inability to separate the illusion of film from our daily reality. After all, Einstein said, "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
Although like "Truman Show" "Simone" falters when it relies on slapstick (witness the mannequin episode) or silliness (witness the sleazy tabloid investigation scenes), it works when it trumpets the truth about our artificial celebrities, the dangers of technology, and our need to connect with real people. That it succeeds as satire even with a comedy-challenged Pacino is a tribute to the basic truth about our struggle with appearance and reality.
This is a better film than Steven Soderbergh's Hollywood satire this summer," Full Frontal," but it comes nowhere near the intelligence of Lynch's "Mulholland Drive." I guess we'll just have to put up with the endless fascination of Hollywood with its own process and hope for more films like "Simone" that dare to satirize our illusory life as well.
As T.S. Eliot said, "Humankind cannot bear very much reality."
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.