SIFF 2012: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace **1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 9, 2012)

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I wish that I could tell you that writer/director/narrator Adam Curtis’ documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is as deep as its title (taken from a poem by Richard Brautigan), but I cannot. Ostensibly intended as an illustration of how mankind has become enslaved by its own technology (at least I think), Curtis opens his treatise with a portrait of Ayn Rand and an examination of what he alleges to be her influence on the cosmology of the Silicon Valley pioneers, and bookends it with theories about The Selfish Gene. In between, there’s Alan Greenspan, Dian Fossey, the ecosystem, gene theory, the internet, altruism, the global banking crisis, the Tutsis vs. the Hutus, the Man-machine… and a large orange soda. While Curtis does offer up a plethora of intriguing ideas over the course of his sprawling 180-minute film (edited together from a 3-part BBC-TV series), ultimately he fails to connect them in any kind of satisfying (or cohesive) manner.

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