Timecode (2000)

(On VHS, December 2001) New technology leads to new artistic possibilities, and you can’t illustrate this any better than by watching Timecode, an audacious concept-film which works well at challenging our perceptions of movies. The gimmick is conceptually simple: Now that digital video cameras can film nearly 90 minutes’ worth of continuous material, it becomes possible to have a one-take film. But that’s not very practical if you follow multiple characters, hence director Mike Figgis’ use of four continuously-running cameras, dividing the screen in four quadrants. It sounds complex, but pretty soon you’ll be wondering at how well it works. There’s a lot to keep you interested here, from a lesbian couple to an on-screen sex scene to infidelity to murder. The acting is quite good. It boggles the mind to imagine the behind-the-scenes work involved in doing this film. There are flaws, of course; some stuff isn’t so well-paced, and the soundtrack is definitely obtrusive. However, this is a film to watch: Not only as a discussion piece, but also as a reflective piece on the conventions of cinema and the new possibilities of the medium. If you miss the artistic significance of Timecode, don’t worry: a mouthpiece character neatly delivers them to us near the end of the film. Ultimately, though, it’s original, and sometimes, that’s all it takes to watch a film.

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