Articles written for various community newspapers in the Lower Mainland, B.C. and special interest print and online magazines

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Control Alt Delete: sexual tech support for the emotionally stunted

If you have asked the question “what's next” for North American culture, Cameron Labine's Control Alt Delete seals the deal that anything goes. The take home question from this movie is: is it post-modern Freud that a man wants to have sex with the motherboard of his computer?

Aptly named by writer and director Cameron Labine, the movie is a technological satire set during Y2K that looks at the way the current generation tends to balk when sex stops being “just sex” and crosses the threshold into the emotional complexity of a “relationship.”

Contol Alt Delete centres around Lewis, a fleshy computer programmer battling with the stress of his promotion as project manager tasked with solving the impending Y2K crisis. On the home front, Lewis is losing hold on his girlfriend Sarah who is put out that Lewis has all but shut down their sex life in favour of internet porn. Lewis turns to porn to beat the heat of the mounting pressure to outperform adult entertainment stars in the bedroom and, at the same time, live up to the expectations of his job.

When Sarah leaves him, Lewis falls into a depressed stupor, letting dishes pile up in the sink as he delves deeper into his obsession which degenerates into a sick fetish for the machine itself when he can no longer reach climax while surfing for sex. Lewis has a tryst with a sleek new model (of computer, that is) while he is working late at the office, drilling a hole into the side of the tower large enough to do the deed. When the office goes on a manhunt for the “computer rapist” Lewis creates a front by asking out Jane, the office assistant. What unfolds is a discovery about the world beyond his own sexual perversions.

First screened at the Toronto and Vancouver International Film Festivals in 2008, the movie was picked up by E1 Entertainment Canada and opens in Vancouver on April 23.

Labine thought it would be fun to make a social satire about a guy who “goes all the way” and makes his computer his actual partner. With the light touch of a power button, a person has easy access to a functional, one-way, low-maintenance relationship, he explained. Culturally, it has become too easy to turn to a computer rather than dealing with the messy task of trying to be with a real person who doesn't come with tech support.

The crux of Labine's message is Lewis' insecurity in accepting the love of a beautiful woman. What's more, he isn't sure who he is supposed to be for her or what she wants from him.

“Because he watches pornography and sees all these men performing in certain ways, he feels like his body doesn't match that and his performance doesn't match that and he's so caught up in what other people do that he has trouble believing he is sexy or desirable for his girlfriend so he builds up this thing in his head that he isn't good enough for her and so therefore he kind of isn't.”

Cracking the code of womanhood is too much for him and he becomes the nerdy version of a renegade lover. That his computer is a means of escape is something Labine thinks a lot of people can relate to.

For Labine, Lewis stands in as a poster boy for the current generation's Peter Pan syndrome where sex is concerned.

“In sex, and in other areas, we're immature in a lot of ways and allowed to remain that way. Which is a luxury and gives us a chance to explore but eventually we need to become adults and own our sexuality and deal with them and share them,” he said.

This point is further amplified in that the names of all characters share the suffix “son”.

“I liked the esoteric idea that they're all sort of sons, kids in grown up bodies. They're sons and not men. I feel like my generation was allowed to remain children in a lot of ways.”

Hungry to access the power of the machine itself, Labine doesn't lust after the monitor where the scandalous images flash at lightening speed but rather wants to penetrate the deep cavern of the hardware.

“Lewis is a computer guy so he knows that that's where it all happens. That's where the exciting stuff is. What he'd be doing now is sort of interesting because now of course there are fewer and fewer towers now it's all skinny little laptops I don't really know what he'd do, I don't really want to think about it,” he said.

The inspiration for the story was based on Labine's discussions with his brother—Tyler Labine is cast in the role of Lewis—about insecurity around sex and attraction and how they both deal with “those things” but he clammed up about what sort of research he conducted when writing the film and whether it was based on a true story.

He did offer assurance that neither he nor his brother, to his knowledge, have ever had sex with a computer. When asked what he would change about the film, Labine didn't shy away from saying that were he to shoot it again, he would have let people in on Lewis' emotional hardwiring.

“I think in retrospect I would have tried to let people into Lewis' mind a little bit more. I was sort of interested in keeping them outside and have them guessing at why he was doing things.”

The moment that reveals the greatest insight into Lewis' character is when he fights the urge to manhandle his first computer, a Commodore 64, partially as a form of self-punishment for messing things up when things get intimate with Jane and also because he wants to return to something virginal and retrieve the spark that ignited his first wet dream.

“I think he's feeling like the good part of him is gone but he stops and he's not able to have sex with it because there's still something there. There's still something pure in him and then he throws it away because I think he's afraid but then he goes back to get it and he's found that innocence again and I think he realizes 'it's okay, this computer thing is a big part of me this is who I am. I don't need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.'”

Whether you're interested in probing into the perverse psyche of a broken man who is terrified of love or you simply want to find how much RAM Lewis' PC can take, you'll have to catch the film when it comes. Viewer be warned, it just might go viral.

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