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Volume 68, Issue 1, Monday, August 26, 2002

Arts & Entertainment
 

'Simone' entertains as Pacino continues to flaunt his talent

By Ray Hafner
The Daily Cougar

The irony of the new movie Simone, in which a director enlists the help of a virtual actress on his new film, is that only a flesh-and-blood actor of
Al Pacino's caliber could pull it off.


Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema


In Andrew Niccol's comedy Simone, Al Pacino (left) plays Viktor Taransky, a director who digitally creates the ideal leading lady, Simone (Rachel
Roberts).


Pacino clearly relishes the role of Viktor Taransky, an Academy Award-winning director on the verge of washing out. The movie is filled with
monologues about film, actors and reality, which Pacino serves up on a platter. Even his dialogues with the computer-generated Simone turn
into monologues with him playing both parts.

For anyone who might doubt it, viewed alongside his earlier performance as Will Dormer in Insomnia, it's clear that Pacino is one of the greatest
actors ever at the top of his game.

The film opens with Taransky busily removing all the red Mike & Ikes from a candy dish to keep his incorrigible star Nicola Anders (Winona
Ryder, in some of her own best work) from walking off his picture. She does anyway, and Taransky has to watch his entire film, most of which
has already been shot, get shelved in order to avoid a lawsuit.

Enter Hank. Hank has developed a computer code capable of producing believable virtual actors: "vactors." Unfortunately for Hank, the years of
staring at his computer (and when you see Simone, you'll know why) have given him eye cancer. His last wish is for Taransky to use his code to
give real emotion to his Simulation One.

In just nine months Taransky manages to cut Nicola out and paste Simone in. Simone is a versatile actress, with every actress of note digitally
memorized and accessible in just a few keystrokes. Need a bigger smile? Just add Audrey Hepburn. Deeper voice? Lauren Bacall will do. Even
Ernest Borgnine is part of her repertoire.

Pacino's designing and interacting with Simone are the funniest moments of the film.

That is, no doubt, thanks to writer and director Andrew Niccol. His previous work, writing and directing Gattaca along with penning the equally
good Truman Show shows he is most interested in questions of modern identity.

Before long, Simone is the biggest sensation on the planet, and is more real than the man who created her. The cover stories on a dozen
magazines and guest appearances on talk shows, always done via remote, prove it to an entire planet. Even when Taransky tries to come clean,
Simone's fans refuse to believe him. His revelation that he "created" Simone gets lost in Hollywood speak, just meaning he made her a star.

This hyper real frenzy spurs Taransky to create even more Simone. By adding a slice of Whitney Houston you've got a record deal. Give her a
smell and you've got your own line of perfume.

Niccol's satire leaves no Entertainment Tonight correspondent untouched and every aspect of modern culture gets its hair mussed.

The script gives all the actors involved plenty to work with, including Catherine Keener, also at the top of her game, and Jay Mohr as a pretty boy
A-list actor. 

Try to guess if Simone is an unknown actress or really computer-generated. It's harder than you would think.

It can't be stressed enough how good Pacino is, not just here, but in everything. 

His character's transformation, mirrored at first in Simone's rise, is brilliant and Taransky's rants at the end fit perfectly.

Pacino appears to be seeking out the best new directors like Niccol and Insomnia's talented Christopher Nolan. 

As long as they can keep getting performances like this out of real actors, no virtual Simones will ever be needed.

 Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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