directed and written by mike figgis
str. salma hayek, jeanme trippelhorn, holly hunter, julian sands

The problem with films that hinge on a technical device is that reviewers inevitably focus on the device and ignore the substance of the film. Oh! So much is now possible in the cinema! This is the future! How Exciting. The problem with such reviews is that they leave you hankering after a purely subjective, a-technical cinema, or drama, what you will. As though the acting performances are all that matter? Oh! The humanity. The problem with these films is that the really cool directors, those with the technical flair young film students drool for, won't touch them with a bargepole. And so the vicious circle ensues. Technical wizardry over sensitivity and profundity; or sloppy sentimentality over sheer cinematic incapability, television.

Timecode's billing pegs you to choose from four films, each playing simultaneously, synchronously. As I said, the fascination with the sheer technical ability to pull off weaving four films of improvised drama, all uninterrupted, uncut is enough to keep some happy. And it is exceedingly well done, as though filmed with stopwatch precision, with pure synchronicity.

And the drama are reasonable too, bland enough to be spread over four screens. With minimal cues, the actors (Hayek, Trippelhorn et al) all improvise around mundane settings ; a movie audition, jealous lover scenario, alcoholic failure, a reasonably pathetic work meeting. That is, they make up their own dialogue around these basic points of plot. And there's a charmingly precise performance from Julian Sands, his best work in years as an ubiquitous masseur, and an even more ludicrous modern rap and movie pitch performance. But these are only occasional trappings, protuberances.

The question begged by Timecode is that if Figgis could time and cue a film so precisely, then why didn't he script it more. Just a teensy weensy little bit more, I mean, get it off the back of a serial packet for fuck's sake! Example: Salma is fine, but her grammar is understandably lousy. She needs beefier lines, more Mexican attitude. Instead, why not train camera three on her boobs continuously? Hm, looking at screen two, the security guard is doing coke in the ladies' ; on screen four Sands is poking his finger is someone's ear; and what's happening on three? Oh! There's a wobble. Oh, and another. Oh! She just tucked them up. (question: do good, idyllic breasts jolt, wobble, or jiggle?) This way, with one camera trained on each body part, you could provide a veritable Joycean body of cinema. But I digress. Salma spends so much time shovelling air that I yawned, were it not for the canny performances of Holly Hunter, Kyle MacLachlan, beefing up the cookiness of an occasional satire.

Sure the digital technology and technical ability is there , the technology will always be there. But with more scripting, a clever story would have been cleverer ? which is important when you're also dealing with the mores of the film industry as a theme.

See Timecode at least twice, and read as many reviews of it as you can. Another interesting point to consider is that technically, this film deserves at least four reviews. Or some more discreet reviewing artifice, technicalities and puns, and even wackier digressions. I was thinking of Chelsea Girls only a moment ago. Or, that this film should retail at a quarter the price. I wonder how Mr Rivette will deal with this quadrophonic experience when he finds the time.

Rino Breebaart
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