Artisan // 1995 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // July 17th, 2003
A Virtual Reality Cyber-Vixen Comes On-Line
A beautiful woman, home alone, begins to set the dinner table for a romantic meal: candles, roses, a bottle of champagne. The mood is perfect for celebrating a one-year anniversary. But where is he? He's late. The minutes slowly tick by; the woman is getting aggravated. How could he forget their anniversary? Mara is getting madder with each passing second, for Stephen is ruining the evening. But when he comes home, all is well. Her temper quickly subsides, and they celebrate their special day. Some time later, as the two cuddle on the bed, Stephen sadly informs Mara that his company, VirtualSoft, can't use the amazing new virtual reality program that Mara, a freelance software writer, has developed; by unfortunate timing, a very similar program was concurrently written within the firm. Devastated, Mara drifts off to sleep. A few moments later, Stephen begins to sneak out of the apartment, but Mara hears him. He's leaving her for a fantastic opportunity in California. But Mara wants to go with him; she loves him desperately and wants to please him. Stephen definitely wants nothing more to do with Mara, leaving her absolutely devastated. Mara decides to lose herself in her virtual reality program, where she eventually falls asleep. It's been a terrible evening, but it gets far worse as one of the remaining candles causes a fire in Mara's apartment. She dies quickly and painlessly in her sleep, in her virtual reality world. Mara awakens dazed, believing herself to still be in her virtual reality world. She is there, but it's only her soul that's there, trapped in death. A young female, who isn't God but a god, meets her and tells Mara that she did not learn her life's lesson before she died. Fortunately, being trapped in a virtual reality world affords her a second chance to learn her lesson. She has four opportunities to learn her lesson before moving on. Mara becomes a virtual erotic therapist who helps people as they try to escape into a virtual world. Can Mara learn her lesson by helping others? Will she successfully move on?
Though I've been a bit vague on the details, make no mistake that this film is truly "erotic." It decidedly falls into the "Skinemax" category of films, obviously showing lots of flesh and graphic interactions but not quite breaking that "R" barrier. But, much to my surprise, this film is actually enjoyable and not because it's an erotic film. The premise is well done here, with some nice acting and dialogue. Cyberella moves briskly along and is enjoyable for what it is. Honestly, though not everyone may believe this, I did find myself fast forwarding through all five of the most intimate of scenes, one of which is the ubiquitous same-sex encounter. As transparently obvious as the lesson-to-be-learned is, as blatantly exploitive as the film is, and as patently demeaning as it may be, this film is more than simply erotic. By having Mara on a quest to learn her life's lesson, there is actually a tale of non-erotic self-discovery here, where the character has to try to become a better person. Why am I here? What did I do wrong? What should I have done? Did I live my life to the fullest? Did I make a difference?
This disc is a bare bones release with no bonus materials, but did you really expect any? Though a "making of" documentary could be...interesting, why bother? But even here, subtitles should always be included on a disc but are, alas, missing. The video transfer is full screen -- though I have no idea if there is a widescreen version available -- and not anything to brag about. Colors are accurate with muted, ill-defined blacks that make the picture a touch dark. Overall, the transfer is a touch soft with noticeable grain throughout. Audio is a 2.0 Dolby Digital track that is inconsistent, dropping out from time to time, with dialogue that skews heavy in the treble register.
It is by no means a film of great dimensions, yet Cyberella is more than the title may proffer. A mildly pleasant film with a message, some appealing scenery, and some amusing moments (like the dancing lesson!), it may not be something you'll actively seek out on a trip to Blockbuster -- which probably doesn't carry this title in the first place -- but if you are looking for a film of this nature and you see it on the rack, I would recommend this one as your choice. Though my experience with the "Skinemax" collection is truly limited, I am willing to venture that few of them take any time to develop and execute a cogent plot that involves more than getting two random people to bump into one another. Cyberella is a quaint little diversion that gives you a pleasant balance of plot and eroticism. I know you can do worse, but odds are there isn't much better.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R