By far the most independent independent-genre flick to grift screen space in Manhattan since Douglas Buck’s Family Portraits, James Bai’s Puzzlehead has only its ideas and speculative frisson to sell it. It’s a post-apocalyptic, A.I. melodrama because the low-budget narration says it is, using, à la Alphaville, the more barren and anonymous stretches of Brooklyn as a lawless wasteland and focusing on an eccentric scientist (Stephen Galaida) who uses illegal technology and his own “synaptic map” to build an android that looks just like him. Bai’s smartest conceptual flourish was giving the retrospective narration over wholly to the robot (Galaida, without a beard and glasses), whose poetic ruminations about human life as he’ll never know it go a long way toward supporting the film’s otherwise shaky legs. Like Greg Pak’s Robot Stories (both of them disarming advances on robo-emotionalism over Spielberg’s A.I.), Puzzlehead is actually about love—the crisis between creator and creation begins when the latter takes a bullet for a local shopgirl during a holdup, inspiring the lonely, meth-spaced doctor to disable the doppelgänger shave, and pass himself off as the ‘droid. Hampered by stiff dialogue woodenly post-dubbed, Bai’s movie deserved a real budget, and deserves eyes now.

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