Cyberpunk Review » Cyberpunk (Documentary)

April 24, 2006

Cyberpunk (Documentary)

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 1990

Directed by: Marianne Trench

IMDB Reference

Rating: 6 out of 10

Cyberpunk Documentary


Overview: Cyberpunk is a documentary that looks back at the 80s cyberpunk movement, and more specifically, how this has led to a trend in the “real” world where people were starting to refer to themselves as “cyberpunk.” The documentary sees “cyberpunks” as being synonymous with hackers. A number of writers, artists, musicians and scientists are interviewed to provide context to this movement. The guiding meme, as told by Gibson, is that information “wants” to be free. 60s counter-culture drug philosopher, Timothy Leary, provides a prediction that cyberpunks will “decentralize knowledge,” which will serve to remove power from those “in power” and bring it back to the masses. Many different potential technologies are discussed, including “smart drugs,” sentient machines, advanced prosthetics – all of which serve to give context to the idea of post-humanity and its imminent arrival on the world stage.


Cyberpunk Documentary


As a documentary, Cyberpunk is haphazard. Some of the interviews, such as those by William Gibson and Timothy Leary are interesting, while others are mired in mediocrity. To mitigate the boredom of some of these, the film makers stoop to using cheesy visual effects to increase the interest. In one case, an interviewer is duplicated to four small windows, and in another, the talking head is completely moiréd out except for their eye. In fact, we are barraged by a stream of weird, experimental effects – one imagines that these are supposed to give us the “hacker-cyberpunk mindset” or something. In general, they don’t work, but I’m guessing the late 80s CG graphics probably looked far more futuristic back then.


Cyberpunk Documentary


The Bottom Line: This documentary really almost serves as a time capsule for capturing a still emerging hacker counter-culture. From a cinematic perspective, I’m saddened that Blade Runner was virtually non-existent in this. While they covered books, music (Front Line Assembly was the main one), science and art (Jaron Lanier, who coined the term “Virtual Reality”), their coverage of film was pretty sparse, generally restricted to obscure animes (which looked cyberpunk, but unfortunately I’m not familiar with). I will say I liked the younger William Gibson LOTS more than on his No Maps for These Territories documentary. He talks excitedly about cyberpunk, hackers, and our direction towards post-humananity. Ten years later, Gibson comes off completely bored with these ideas, and almost seems to wish he was never associated with the term, Cyberpunk.


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This post has been filed under Documentary, 6 Star Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 - 1999 by SFAM.


August 2, 2006

MG50 said:

Interesting point at the end of this “documentary”. I’ll have to try to find earlier interviews of Gibson. I saw an interview with him a couple of years ago on TechTV “The Screen Savers”, and I was somewhat surprised at how low-key he was on the whole cyberpunk theme. Maybe he _is_ bored, or maybe he has just had so much press that he is, as the documentary above put it, “almost seems to wish he was never associated with the term, Cyberpunk.” Maybe people just move on. Personally, I’m still in love with computers and their potential… and I’ve been working with them since th ’70s.
~ MG50 ~

SFAM said:

Hi MG50, welcome to cyberpunkreview :)

And yeah, Gibson has every right to be bored with these ideas. It must be pretty wierd to be identified as the guy who started a new genre. However, as bored as he and other original luminaries have gotten with cyberpunk as a concept, this doesn’t really mean the rest of everyone has to. I absolutely LOVE the recent movies, animes, music, artworks and even books being created in the genre. I can only hope the pace continues. :)

November 19, 2006

Lukas Mariman said:

When I saw this documentary being sold way back in the early 90’s I immediately bought it. Watched it many times since. Indeed, it’s a shame there was no mention of Blade Runner.

But you mentioned some “obscure anime” being used instead. I had to blink when I read that. The scenes shown in the docu are from “Akira”, which was like Japan’s answer to BR, and a modern masterpiece in its own right. And definitely an example of Japanese cyberpunk animation, alongside GITS, so you really should check it out and review it.

BTW, that said I’d like to say this is a great website! Keep up the good work!

November 21, 2006

SFAM said:

Hi Lukas, I wasn’t referring to Akira. I believe there is another anime used as well. Also, I have already reviewed Akira here.

November 22, 2006

Lukas Mariman said:

Strange. I’ve watched this docu many times, but I do not recall anything else then excerpts from Akira being used.

Are you sure no one has tampered with your memories? A common theme in that old Ridley Scott movie, no? ;-)

That said, I wasn’t aware you did review Akira. I didn’t find it on the site, but I’m looking forward to reading it.

May 10, 2009

Anonymous said:

it’s on google video if anyone wants to see it , good for a quick run down for education essays into cyberpunk ,

July 9, 2010

bombignants said:

as far as I could tell (though I could only find bits and pieces) the animes weren’t too obscure. Then again, I only saw akira and, I believe, bubblegum crisis in the bits I found. If your still reviewing cyberpunk things I suggest you check them out along with burst city, which may be the first really cyberpunk film.It’s japanese as well. As far as I’m concerned the japanese were the ones who really knew where it was at with cyberpunk, there’s just so much more punk to it

October 20, 2010

Adam Askov said:

Some of the clips could have been from Genocyber or the prequel to Bubblegum Crisis called AD Police.

November 2, 2010

earthworms said:

just watched this the other night…fantastic time piece! there was mention of an art group called “process animation” ? maybe i’m incorrect, but does anyone know anything about their work?

December 4, 2011

your house is mine said:

love this documentary ~ im also curious about the “process animation” art group mentioned, can’t find their stuff anywhere online. help?

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