Timecode review

:. Director: Mike Figgis
:. Starring: Salma Hayek, Stellan Skarsgard
:. Running Time: 1:37
:. Year: 2000
:. Country: USA


Innovative and experimental, Timecode is the first film shot entirely in "split screen", a process where the screen, divided into four parts, makes it possible to follow four different narratives simultaneously.

Directed by filmmaker and "philosopher" Mike Figgis, to whom we owe Leaving Las Vegas, Miss Julie and the Loss of Sexual Innocence, the 90 minute film offers a portrait of a small Hollywood world by following the various protagonists of a film crew. From the alcoholic producer to actresses ready for everything, along with the guard, masseur and a novice musician, everyone takes his rank. Principally shot on Sunset Boulevard, Timecode proves to be a very self-centered film on the Hollywood milieu that would have only been anecdotal in a conventional format, as this topic has been treated many times (see The Player and Swimming with Sharks in particular). Timecode's ironic tone is all the more appreciated (the guard is hilarious) given that humor is an element we're not accustomed to seeing in Figgis.

Divided into four screens where each character is followed by a camera in real time, the film becomes an exciting sensory experiment that stimulates not only the senses but also the brain. To avoid total confusion, the director takes care to amplify the sound of the scene directing the action of the moment, thus creating a main thread that's more easily followed. Also understood is the need for simplicity in the script. To follow a complex story presented in split screen would probably be an impossible exercise.

Adding to the experimental aspect of the whole, the actors improvise, which reinforces the realism of the ensemble that also flirts with reporting. Timecode offers a gallery of crusty characters where Holly Hunter, Stellan SkarsgÄard (Insomnia), Saffron Burrows (Miss Julie), Julian Sands (Boxing Helena), Jeanne Tripplehorn, Salma Hayek and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) give free reign to their instincts.

The best moments of the film are undoubtedly when the four protagonists simultaneously undergo the same event, thus developing four completely subjective perspectives—for example during the earthquake and the murder—while they cross paths.

Under its air as a homemade film, Timecode is a cinematic pioneer that opens new horizons.

To note, Figgis shot about fifteen versions with various actors. The DVD contains a slightly different second version where another actress replaces Holly Hunter.

  Fred Thom

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