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Originally composed on music sheets by director Mike Figgis and shot in one continuous 93-minute take on four digital cameras all running simultaneously. Working without a script and relying upon improvisation from actors such as Salma Hayek, Kyle MacLachlan, Saffron Burrows and Holly Hunter, Figgis walks a creative tightrope, juggling overlapping audio and visual elements from the parallel narrative strands.
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The cameras generally concentrate on three women with the fourth filming events taking place in and around a film production company office which forms the central focus, and involves several interweaving plot threads. The plot opens with Emma (Saffron Burrows) and her therapist (Glenne Headly) where she is debating about asking her husband Alex Green (Stellan Skarsgård) for a divorce. Meanwhile, a young actress named Rose (Salma Hayek) is headed for a hoped for screen test but is driven there by her insanely jealous girlfriend Lauren (Jeanne Tripplehorn), who plants a microphone in Rose's purse and spends most of the time in the back of her limousine parked outside the office building listening in on Rose's conversations. Its something akin to a thinking persons Big Brother as we watch generally inane conversations between the characters as their inter-relationships come to light against the tense goings-on of a Hollywood film production company as they await the arrival of an up and coming teenage director.
However the entire thing was filmed 15 times and only the best versions were used. The first edited attempt was ditched and has been thrown in as a bonus feature [so you tend to get 2 films in reality]. Additionally viewers have access to all four audio tracks to allow for custom sound mixing, rather than the mix of the finished film, so its possible to follow a single character almost all the way through.
Not a fast paced film, this does entertain once you settle into the four screen mode of viewing and the main soundtrack is cleverly done so you can understand the outline plot. Following a single audio option [which can be switched during play from one to another] does fill in the minor details and effectively gives a film on its own. This is definitely worth a watch but the £28 [or so] price tag is excessive and given the experimental nature of the film will not please everyone.
I thought the story was negligble, but couldn't help being taken by the enthusiasm of the project.The trouble with the technique comes when it's more important than the story.Telling a good story is still what it's all about. These actors were allowed to improvise their dialogue around structures and sketches of their characters' situations.Some of it was very banal and redundant: walking,smoking,lying down.Some improvisers were better than others. For this to work you'd need proper scripts to give it substance or more rehearsal time a la Mike Leigh,or say a sci-fi story. As it stands it is a failure but worth a try.Technique should be a result of need.
At heart this is a story of a suspicious lover spying on the partner she suspects of cheating. This is played out against the backdrop of a troubled film production company. It’s not the greatest story ever told, which is part of the reason I’m only awarding 4 stars, though there is plenty of whit and some moments of real emotional engagement. Another reasons not to give Timecode top marks is that it becomes too self referential, which I feels detracts from the story.
So what is it about Timecode that does work? Well, firstly some great performances from a strong cast. Salma Hayek in particular is perfect as the manipulative wanabe starlet at the centre of the piece. The “four scenes at once” format is also a success, as it melds the story threads together in a fascinating way. Once you acclimatise to what’s going on (which took me about 20 minutes) it does start to draw you onto the movie.
Not perfect, but well worth checking out.
Although it sounds confusing the result is genius. You can follow the character whose action seems most relevant, or scan the whole picture as the movement and dialogue echo and clash with each other. Because it is all done with no cuts or edits the actors have to adlib for the entire length of the film. The actors have a chance to truly take on their roles.
With excellent music throughout, clever camera work, planning and directing, with lively acting and a story, whilst not gripping or action-packed, certainly able to hold its own, Timecode is unmissable!
And with extras and bonuses on the DVD, if you like real acting, clever ideas or an interest in film you will not be dissapointed with this.