(Peter Lynch, Canada, 2001)


Peter Lynch’s Cyberman is a hilarious, enthralling documentary about teacher, artist, inventor and all-round cybergeek Steve Mann.

This chap marches into the urban landscape with various, grotesque recording gadgets appended to his upper body, beaming constantly to his personal Webcam site. Mann’s commentaries – which usually take the form of aphorisms, equations or notes scribbled onto a pad that he holds up to his camera-eye – are standard cyberpunk stuff: he builds his funky machines from techno-detritus; he beams a subjective reality unfiltered by corporate media; he aims to "create situations" in public places where his image is being recorded without his permission (panoptical surveillance!); he hopes, with his customised vision, to filter out the dirty, noisy images of our logo-saturated world.

The method of the doco involves a subtle turnabout. At the beginning, it seems content to merely provide the subject’s own view of himself. The fast cutting, dense sound mix and general mélange of audiovisual textures seem assimilable to Mann’s B-grade cyberpunk rhetoric.

Then, at a certain point, we begin to get outside his head. We hear the brutal critiques from his colleagues at a seminar. We gradually twig to the phantasmic, wishful nature of many of Mann’s techno-tactics.

Above all, we start to appreciate the cute details of his normal life – interactions with his wife, family, friends and students – as stages in a rumination about Steve’s rather troubled relation to the natural world and ordinary human feelings. (Errol Morris’ A Brief History of Time [1992] suggests itself as a comparison here.)

It would then have been easy for Lynch to play the ain’t-he-quaint-and-sad pathos pedal. But, again, there is a fine twist: the sequence devoted to Mann learning to swim for the first time in his life (shades of Luc Moullet!) is priceless.

© Adrian Martin May 2001

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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