Directed By Mike Figgis
By: Eric G.
Forget about the outrageously pretentious missteps in Mike Figgis’ career recently (One Night Stand, The Loss Of Sexual Innocence), and go see this movie. Time Code takes entertainment to a new level. Figgis presents us with four intertwining situations simultaneously on the screen with only one take per shot, only one shot per scene, and only four scenes. No edits. No script. Just four digital cameras shooting four different scenes that interact. They were all shot in one afternoon in Los Angeles starting at 3:00 p.m. Think of how easily this could have gone wrong. Unrehearsed dialogue? Only one take? That’s risky stuff. The actors had a general idea of how to play their scenes, but the cameras just rolled and whatever they said ended up in the film.
The plot loosely revolves around a movie executive (Stellan Skarsgard) who strings along a slew of absurdly beautiful women, including Saffron Burrows and Salma Hayek. The film even pokes fun at itself when a director pitches the very idea of this film in a meeting and gets laughed at for being utterly pretentious. The acting is secondary to the visual stimuli, obviously. You’d think it would be extremely disorienting to follow four scenes at the same time, but Figgis brilliantly adjusts the audio tracks to steer you toward the proper scene (of course, you have the option to watch whichever scene you desire).
Time Code goes beyond the concept of voyeurism. This film will have you on the edge of your seat, and there’s not even any real drama until the end. You’re privy to intimate but meaningless chatter, and it’s more exhilarating than watching horror films because you feel like you’re not supposed to be there. Everything unfolds right before your eyes. The film is at its most thrilling when the scenes overlap, and you see the same situation from two different perspectives. It must have been an enormous undertaking to plan this out to such a meticulous degree, and points have to go to Figgis for pulling it all off so well.
Not only is Time Code a visual spectacle, but it’s a dead-on satire of the ‘decadent Los Angeles lifestyle’, where everyone is either trying to be an actor or sleeping with someone who already is. There’s a minor earthquake every ten minutes, but no one ever seems even remotely alarmed. People get out from under their desks or pick themselves up, and it’s business as usual. Figgis beats LA cliches into the ground the same way Robert Altman did with Parisian cliches in Pret A Porter, but it’s done here in such a dry and overly deliberate manner that it’s hysterical.
The film has its flaws, but they are way overshadowed by the shear audacity inherent to this type of experimentation. The acting seems awkward and forced at times, but the audio does an amazing job of covering up certain scenes when they get stale. The soundtrack will kick in and you’ll see the mouths moving but you’ll only hear the particular scene that is advancing the plot, which is quite the clever technique. Figgis also helped compose the music, which mixes sleek saxophones with quirky electronics. Even if you are put off by the concept of no editing and improvisation, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Salma Hayek have an elaborate make-out scene. Need I say more?