Synthetic Pleasures

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Synthetic Pleasures

Synthetic Pleasures purports to be a documentary about how recreational uses of technology will change, and are already changing, human existence. That's a good idea for a movie, but unfortunately, Synthetic Pleasures does little to back it up. Instead, it collects clips of now-passé cutting-edge pastimes set to already-dated electronic music and accompanied by largely unattributed soundbites, some of which are clearly cut off in mid-sentence. The pleasures of virtual reality, plastic surgery, smart drinks and cybersex are all touched upon, but not in a way that sheds any new light on the already-overexposed subjects. It's also tough to have too much faith in the authority of many of the film's experts; less heavily excerpted interviews could easily have taken the place of all the neo-psychedelic computer animation, and probably yielded more revelations. Especially puzzling is the inclusion of the impassioned opinions of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Who better to offer insights into the nascent pleasures of the coming millennium than a man whose claim to fame is having served a four-year stint as a guitarist for The Doobie Brothers in the mid- to late '70s? Synthetic Pleasures is presented as depthless stimulation; not coincidentally, it makes its subject matter seem much the same. Lock this in a time capsule, and all the starry-eyed enthusiasm and speculative pseudo-science will look about as prescient as past predictions of monkey manservants and flying scooters.

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