Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tilda Swinton, Thomas Jay Ryan, Peter Coyote, Josh Kornbluth, Steve Kurtz, Shoresh Alaudini, Wallace Shawn
Written by: Lynn Hershman-Leeson
Directed by: Lynn Hershman-Leeson
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 75
Date: 01/19/2007

Strange Culture (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Third Degree

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

San Francisco director and digital pioneer Lynn Hershman Leeson (Conceiving Ada, Teknolust) crosses fiction and non-fiction for her astonishing, exasperating third feature. Tilda Swinton plays Hope, a 40-ish woman who suddenly and unexpectedly dies of heart failure. Her husband, Steve (Thomas Jay Ryan), is a professor working on an art project that involves petri dishes full of bacteria (the point is to illuminate the government's ruthless and unsafe experimenting with our food). When the authorities come to take his wife's body away, they also arrest Steve for bio-terrorism. The real Steve appears as himself, and though his nightmare began in 2004, the case is still pending today. At some point, Swinton and Ryan suddenly drop their characters and begin talking as themselves. Peter Coyote turns up to read a transcript from one of Steve's colleagues, and then offers his own comments. The film even includes storyboard-like drawings of what the events might have looked like! Wallace Shawn and Josh Kornbluth also appear. The film screened at the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival.

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