The production aesthetic is a handsomely grotesque retro-futurism—a little Ray Harryhausen, a little Fritz Lang, some Flesh Gordon and Iron Giant. The vision is Machine-Age dystopian. Sullivan's robots inhabit rusty industrial cities where, counter-intuitively, they seem to have little work to do, and have become in their indolence obsessed with sex. They pursue sex with the grim and mindless purposefulness of the assembly line.
An often deployed cliché during the golden age of pornography stated that the actors looked like soulless robots, puppets of flesh programmed to repeat a set series of sex acts in infinite peep-show loops. Sullivan has taken this to its absurd extreme. Like professional porn actors, his robots are anonymous and interchangeable. They will do anything, in any position, anytime. Unlike porn actors, they never take a lunch break or go limp or need lubrication.
"I think because robots don't need to have sex, it's pretty funny to think that they would want it," Sullivan explains. And his robots want it a lot. "They have the sexuality of dogs. They'll fuck any machine with a hole in it. It's the mechanical imperative—they reproduce by fucking instead of building more robots." They stage orgies and perform live sex acts and engage in mechanized versions of bestiality. Female robots pre-designed to appear pregnant shunt down an assembly line that installs fetal robots in their empty, rusty wombs. A huge penis-cannon sprays mechanical semen like buckshot, then the spermatozoa race through a maze toward a giant metallic egg. Some sperm give up in frustration and simply copulate with each other. Baby-doll robots observe the constant rutting of adult models and learn to play with their spring-loaded penises.
When Sullivan screens the footage he's completed to date—ten minute or so of discontinuous scenes, without soundtract—the effect, much like pornography with human performers, is alternately humorous and disturbing, but never "sexy." If traditional pornography is often dehumanizing, robot porn is thoroughly dehumanized. if pornography is sex without love, without passion, without joy or personality—sex reduced to the biomechanics of copulation—then The Sex Life of Robots is the ultimate skin flick. "There's actually very little sexy about it. I don't think anybody's going to be jerking off to this movie," Sullivan conjectures. Then he shrugs. "But you never know. Maybe there are robot fetishists who'd just be lining up for this."
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