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Conceiving Ada (Widescreen)

Tilda Swinton , Francesca Faridany , Lynn Hershman-Leeson    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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This unusual, thought-provoking film, part science fiction, part magical realism, introduces us to the fascinating historical figure of Ada Byron King, daughter of the famous (some would say infamous) British poet, Lord Byron. Ada, brought to wondrous life here by Tilda Swinton (Orlando), was a mathematical genius far ahead of her time, who developed the world's first computer language in the mid-19th century. She was precocious in other ways as well: her father's daughter, Ada was sexually promiscuous, a gambler, and an opium addict. In the film, modern-day genius Emmy Coer (Francesca Faridany), working on creating artificial life via the computer, becomes obsessed with Ada. Using her own DNA, Emmy is somehow able to channel Ada's memories and play them back on her computer screen. The two women leading parallel lives eventually become inextricably tied for all time. The movie may sound rather arcane, but its vibrantly female point of view renders it anything but dry. It actually makes mathematics seem marvelously sexy. The supporting cast adds to the film's distinctiveness: Timothy Leary (yes, the Timothy Leary, the LSD guru), is Sims, Emmy's spectral cybervision of a mentor, and the inimitable Karen Black appears as the mother of both Emmy and Ada. --Laura Mirsky

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5.0 out of 5 stars A well-measured dose of reality. Jan. 27 2004
Format:DVD
First, the fiction: Perhaps the premise is a little contrived. Channeling the spirit of a famous Victorian woman into a PC (and more than the PC) is a bit improbable. Fine. Once that premise is in place, the plot stays within its own inner logic and moves forward quite well.
The reality, though, is what struck me. First, there is Ada herself. Yes, she was brilliant. She made a place for herself when all the places were reserved for men. We've heard that part. She was also a real, flawed human being, with a destructive gambling habit. Much of her interest in math and algorithms was centered on finding "the system" for beating the odds in horse races. Her creation of programming was driven by an urge that she could not control - like a flower that blooms because it grows in manure.
Emmy seems real, too, a fully mature "geek girl," but drawn with respect. She's intelligent, wholly wrapped up in her work, and also driven by a vision of her own. Best, she is completely a woman - not pretty, but beautiful, and not just a male role with a female actor. Emmy represents a character that I know and admire in real life. This is the first time I've seen it portrayed on screen, or at least portrayed so strongly.
Finally, the ethical question of Emmy's daughter is very real. The exact circumstance, as I said, is fiction. The issue is not: We have unprecedented control over what a baby, a new human being, can become. What kinds of control are morally acceptable? To tell the truth, I think Emmy took "what we can do" well past "what we should do."
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Format:VHS Tape
This unusual film is about Ada Augusta Byron King Lovelace, a daughter of the poet Byron. Her name is overshadowed by this famous father, but Ada is, the film informs you, actually a genius on her own, a kind of 'mother' of modern computer system. If my source is to be relied on, Pentagon of the US government in fact adapted the name od ADA for its computer language program.
"Conceiving Ada" has, however, a little confusing structure. It starts with Emmy, a woman living in the 20th century, so inmmersed in the possibility of re-creating the thoughts and images of the past events, using the special computer techiniques and the DNA patterns inherited from Ada Lovelace, the pioneer of the computer languages. One of her mentors, Sims (Timothy Leary, who died 9 days after the shooting of the picture), helps her, giving vital information, but with some warnings.
Emmy succeeds in going "interactive" with the real Ada (Tilda Swinton) living in the early Victorian era. From then, the film traces the eventful life of Ada, who was leading unconventional life, going out with several males, or being addicted to gambling, in spite of her strictly conservative mother's adomoniton. (Her/ Emmy's mother is played by Karen Black). Ada's lifestyle, on the other hand, influences that of Emmy, who is living with her boyfriend, and is going to have a baby (meaning "conceiving Ada").
The central idea is that of sci-fi films, but "Conceiving Ada" looks more like intent on championing this unique female nearly forgotten in the history. Though the idea is a worthy one, the film lacks decent budget to realize the well-intentioned purpose.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Conceiving Ritalin Oct. 15 2000
Format:VHS Tape
Weeell, it all started innocently enough - the VHS box said it was a film where Tilda Swinton portrayed Ada Augusta Byron King, the intriguing daughter of the equally intriguing Lord Byron. And indeed, I probably *would* enjoy seeing a film in which Tilda portrayed that character, but unfortunately, this film wasn't exactly it. 'Conceiving Ada' makes a misguided attempt to modernize the story by having Byron's daughter interact with present-day characters, ostensibly communicating through proprietary software. (I don't think it ships with Windows 98.)
While the decision to weave Ada's plotline into a second one is bad enough, the film is done infinitely more harm by the wretched dialogue and casting for the modern-day characters. Taking nothing away from Keanu Reeves, I think J.D. Wolfe has presented a strong case for worst performance by a human actor in the 20th Century - assuming that this aptly named lycanthrope is, indeed, human. Hairy, dim-witted and slow, this heavy-lidded beast displays no energy, no comic timing, no anything! Francesca Fardinay is not nearly as bad in the lead role, but her performance is crippled by (a) laughable dialogue - "I've paid my dues!" she retorts as her justification to warp her own unborn child's DNA structure - and (b) the most unflattering wig known to man. The storyline is impossibly convoluted, the science absurd, and the biography lost in the shuffle.
If you're looking for an unusual film which straddles centuries and stars Tilda Swinton, ORLANDO is your only hope. View this film only if it becomes necessary to induce an epileptic fit - it serves no other purpose. Hisssss!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Unusual And Original Sept. 1 2000
Format:DVD
I wasn't expecting much from this film since I'd never heard of it. It had been released back in 1997 and I couldn't have missed something this good, could I? Not this movie-hound! It pains me to admit it but I indeed let this one slip by. The totally inventive idea is to have a woman genius of today's world, working on her computer to finish her research project, meet Ada Byron. This genius conceives a child with her lover while doing this work and shortly thereafter discovers she is able to communicate with Ada Byron, Lord Byron's daughter and the inventor of the computer, through her computer screen. We thereafter flip back and forth to the two worlds, learning more and more about Ada and even a bit about the woman carrying the baby and running the computer. There is even a visit to the OB-GYN with today's woman that shows something unusual is developing with the baby. Timothy Leary puts in what was probably a final screen appearance before his death as, what else, a guru for the woman genius. She consults him periodically and they discuss abstractions together. There are some highly original camera techniques used here that either required fairly new equipment/technology, a lot of imagination or both. IMDB lists this as a German production but it is performed in the English language and seems set in America and England. The reason I give it a 4 instead of a 5 is that at times the film got confusing. I think this was because the script was rough around the edges. If the writer had smoothed out the script and eliminated any potential confusion, this could have been a perfect 5. I'm going to watch it again and it may move up to that 5 if my confusion clears a second time through it. I recommend you give this a try, especially anyone interested in historical women bucking the odds back in what were barbaric times for them.
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