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"Timecode"

Directed by Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas").
Written by Mike Figgis.
Starring Jeanne Tripplehorn, Salma Hayek, Kyle MacLachlan and Saffron Burrows.
Release Year:  2000

Review Date:  5/3/00 

Folks-- 

Since many of you have told me that in busy times, you only read the first couple of paragraphs, I'm going to get my money's worth!

The first step in taking Bellview online has been walked.  After a two-hour brainstorming session with Michael "Really, My Cell Phone NEVER Blows Up Like This" Nolan and Charles "Corn Pudding" Longer, I have registered my website.  Next step:  getting help designing my site--techies wanted!!

After dissing "High Fidelity" a couple of weeks ago, I took Alexis "Guess What Color I'm Wearing" Goldberg up on a recommendation to read a Nick Hornby novel, so I read "About a Boy"--Hornby's second novel--this past weekend.  *Damn* good book, and I think I would have enjoyed reading "High Fidelity", too.  But, after seeing the movie, that probably won't happen.  But, I definitely recommend picking up either book, both are rich with pop culture references and, in the case of "About a Boy", lots of mention of the music of Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Another hot read:  "Gentleman Pimp," quite simply the funniest muthafuckin' book I have ever read, heard about, or fantasized.  Wow, wow, wow...Mike "My Hero" Iacovone gets mad props for this one, and if you are a guy (or a girl that doesn't mind getting called bitch a lot...I didn't think so), you have no choice but to read this book as soon as possible.

Okay, enough with the notes.  This weekend, I went to Seattle to visit one of my best friends from high school, Felicia, who lives in Seattle.  Do you think you know tough?  Try recently divorced mother of two...and, she is 25.  Admittedly, she is the manager of a laser eye surgery clinic and a part-time model, so money isn't as tough as it could be, but still...and, being that this was my first official visit to see A Friend That Has Children, a lot of the real-life things that I try and avoid during my club-hopping trips around the country came to a head.  Whoa.  So, I figured, what better time to see a movie?

Monday afternoon, we went to the Neptune Theater in downtown Seattle (think the Uptown in DC, and you sort of get the picture--old school, 500-seat theater with a balcony) to see "Timecode," the Mike Figgis film experiment being shown in extremely limited release around the country.  In case you haven't heard of it, let me explain.

This is probably the most innovative film that will come out this year.  The film is shown in four quadrants, meaning that four screens are continuously showing for the whole movie from different characters' perspectives.  From some post-movie reading, Felicia and I learned that it is up to the projectionist to decide whether to lay these screens out in a line, like

1 2 3 4    or stacked, like

1 2
3 4

Further, the movie was shot several times over the course of one day last November, with Figgis picking his favorite take.  The script is mostly improvised, except for some pre-planned events that drive the main points of the plot.  And, the most important part of Figgis' idea:  he and three other camera operators used digital cameras to shoot their entire 90-minute segment in one take, so no one can screw up any lines, and--because the four cameras are shooting four different parts of the movie--every actor in the movie is working on the same clock.  This last part is important:  in the past, when a cinematographer is using a regular film camera, he/she can't shoot more than six-to-eight minutes (actually, I think it is less) of film before changing reels; Figgis would not have been able to shoot all 90 minutes at once with the old school format.

Note:  seeing this movie on video will do you no good.  There is so much happening on the big screen at once that it is necessary to watch it on the big screen (or, I guess, at "Schmoove" Prenoveau's house, which features a 50" television).  Also, the surround sound is key:  action taking place in the upper left quadrant has sound coming from the back left of the theater, so the sound has a big influence as well.  It can sometimes be tough to follow "Timecode", because there are sometimes as many as three sound channels (out of four possible for this movie) playing at once and listening to everyone can be a bit difficult.

I won't really get into what the movie itself is about, because I didn't read anything about the plot before I watched it and that made it much more interesting.  What I will say is this:  very, very cool movie.  Saffron Burrows ("Deep Blue Sea"), Salma Hayek (recently, "Dogma"), Holly Hunter (more movies than I can count), Kyle Maclachlan (famously, "Showgirls"), Alessandro Nivola ("Face/Off"), Julian Sands, and a host of other actors you've seen before come and go during the unedited storyline.  Of special note is Jeanne Tripplehorn ("Basic Instinct", "The Firm") who, as the only character that is on one of the four cameras for the entire movie, is very good and makes listening to a wire feed extremely engaging as we watch her listen to off-screen (at least, off of HER screen) characters as the story unfolds.

But, the coolest thing about the movie is watching as the independent stories intersect randomly in real time.  Characters make cell phone calls to people in other frames (real cell phone calls, since they have to be able to hear what the other person is saying), then those people arrange to meet up, for example...and, it happens at just the right time to not interrupt other stories happening in the same room or office or limo.  I can't even imagine how long it took Figgis--director of "Leaving Las Vegas"--to figure out the logistics, but we are the beneficiaries of some good work.

I don't know if this movie will ever go national, since it is only showing at seven theaters around the country, and (at least in Seattle) for only one week!  But, if you live in a major city, check this one out as soon as possible.  The novelty alone is worth the price of admission.  (Of course, a Salma Hayek sex scene doesn't hurt, either!)

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09