The Mechanical Bride
Directed by Allison de Fren
Tickets are still available for May 6, 9:00pm: CLICK HERE
Update, Paolo’s take (Kirk’s review below):
The Mechanical Bride features the most real voiceover in this year’s crop of documentaries. It’s real in the sense that it’s the kind of voiceover work we the audience would imagine in the docs that we’re used to. This voice belongs to Julie Newmar, the movie showing archive video of her looking like what would happen if Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo had a baby. In the footage she plays a robot with flesh to be a man’s companion, perfect not just because of her classical beauty but because she can be commanded and owned. The words she’s saying, as her older self, narrates the nature of the contemporary industry of life-size female dolls, often used for sexual purposes.
This movie is like a few thesis statements rolled into one, comprehensive enough for its audience. For example, there are the blurred lines between the dolls and their human counterparts, of appearance and reality. Dolls and man’s fascination with them, their definition of play differing from the females who have their own versions of dolls. As symbols of the male desire to obtain property to use and destroy. Their relationships with different cultures and arts (large portions of the film are dedicated to the Japanese and German concepts of those dolls). Concepts of age and beauty. On how the dolls change family dynamics in what’s becoming a more independent, fragmented society. It shows also men, who either work within the industry or owners of the dolls, talk unabashedly about their ‘instincts’ towards female ownership despite giving caveats that they don’t agree with this kind of thinking. These kinds of conversations fit into this well-thought, if not too methodical, perspective of the feminine body politic crossing the uncanny valley.
Mechanical Bride is an expose on the thriving world of mechanical companions and the men who are devoted to their artificial “brides”. The film goes through the history of the world surrounding these men, from the early beginnings to what is hailed as the “Rolls Royce” of the industry, the Real Doll. From the creation, purchase, and use of the dolls, Director de Fren exploration takes us into this world and the characters involved.
The first of the people we meet is Davecat and his girlfriend/lovedoll Shiori. According to Davecat, Shiori is a half-Japanese, half-English Goth who grew up in the UK. Davecat takes Shiori with him almost everywhere. We see him out for a picnic in a cemetery and going out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant with another one of his friends. Elena Dorfmann is a photographer who has become fascinated with photographing men and their dolls. She explains that she became intrigued with the subject when she realized these men had developed real relationships with these dolls. We meet the numerous men and women who are behind the making of these dolls and the way they are manufactured. The film explores the phenomenon globally where we find the doll market is huge in places like Germany (going back to WW2 and Hitler himself, one of the most intriguing part of the doc) and Japan. The star of this documentary is Slade, the love doll “Doctor”. The man people send their dolls to for repairs. Slade is truly hilarious, but has a dark past to him and his story turns out to be truly fascinating. Our Narrator is the incomparable Julie Newmar, who once starred in a television series in the mid sixties called My Living Doll, which was about a female android. The film also briefly delves into the internet group know as the ASFR, devout followers and believers in the love of robots and androids, known as a radical group in most circles.
Mechanical Bride runs as a conventional interview-only based documentary that unfortunately scratches a lot of surfaces but does not delve too deeply into any one of them. Subjects like Davecat and especially Slade could have had much more time devoted to their stories. Slade could probably fill an entire film out himself. Unfortunately because we don’t delve too deeply the film feels inconsequential as well. A watchable film that could have been much more.
Til Next Time
Movie Junkie TO
Make sure to keep up with all the goings on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook Feed. The only way to stay on top of all of our articles, including more Hot Docs coverage.