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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Time Code: Special Edition
Time Code: Special Edition
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 20, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Although director Mike Figgis hasn't done a great deal ("Miss Julie" and "Loss Of Sexual Innocence" were met with mixed responses) since the success of "Leaving Las Vegas", he came back earlier this year with what is easily one of the more fascinating experiments in filmmaking that I've seen in quite some time. The end result is "Time Code", a film that shows 4 separate boxes on-screen, and these cameras follow these stories in an uninterrupted take. There is no screenplay; basic situations are outlined and dialogue is apparently improvised. The film was shot using digital cameras, and sound is ramped up for the segement that Figgis wants you to focus on.

Some may find the film hard to watch or need some time to get used to it; even though Figgis has helped draw the focus with the sound, it's still rather difficult to jump your eyes around to see if anything's going to start in another frame. I suppose it's one of those movies that will reveal further details on additional viewings.

I will discuss the plot, although in a movie like this it almost becomes more about the experimental nature of the film rather than having a detailed story. In one part, Emma (Saffron Burrows of "Deep Blue Sea") discusses her life with her therapist. Her husband is Alex(Stellan Skarsgard), who is having an affair with one of the second screen participants, Rose(Salma Hayek). At the same time, Rose is worrying about her lover Lauren(Jeaneane Tripplehorn), who isn't trusting her. The other two involve execs casting and working on a movie. Occasionally, an earthquake or aftershock shakes everything up before the characters go forward once more.

The performances vary greatly from very good to uninteresting. Skarsgard is almost always engaging, and his performance here is solid. Hayek and Tripplehorn are also fairly good. Burrows, who was very promising in "Deep Blue Sea", is rather bland here. I liked this film as an experiment; I'm not sure if I'd want it to be something that is used more often. If so, a stronger story would be appreciated. Although I can respect Figgis' choice of trying to sketch out very basic outlines and improv from there, but the story is sometimes rather thin.

All-in-all, a good try that's mildly successful. On this DVD, Tristar has provided two versions of the film - version "15", which was the theatrical release and version "1", which is an unrated version of the movie. It's very interesting to be able to see this different edition of the movie and the differences between this earlier version of the film and the final "version 15".


VIDEO: "Time Code" is presented in full-frame and it looks very good. Again, the film was shot on digital cameras and generally, the 4 images look well-defined and crisp, with fair to good detail and sharpness. For an example of how the entire film looks, there is the "4" block picture to the right. Colors are natural, but not too vibrant or bold, and I didn't see any instances of print flaws such as marks or scratches. Shimmering and pixelation are also absent. A good presentation from the studio. Strangely, the ability to pause or fast foward seems to be disabled on version 15, but not on version 1. Chapter stops are approx. every 5 minutes.

SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and I must say that "Time Code" provides one of the odder listening experiences I've ever enjoyed. The audio for the four stories seems to always be going at the same time someplace in the listening space, but often the sound level comes up for the one that we're supposed to focus on. Still, there are times when these stories are going on in the surrounds, even. The only sequences that present some bass are the earthquake scenes.

Meanwhile, the score (by Figgis and Anthony Marelli) plays out behind it all, sounding clear. Dialogue is clear and easily understood as well, although again, there are times when dialogue for a certain segement gets the focus. It's rather hard to explain and there are times when it gets to be a little chaotic, but more often than not, it works. "Version 1", which is also included on this disc, is available in stereo.

MENUS:: Tristar has put together some very enjoyable animated menus for "Time Code", which offer some high-tech looking backgrounds and transitions. It's admittedly a little hard to keep all of the different versions and commentaries and what the disc offers organized, but Tristar's menus are easily navigated and nicely done


Commentaries: director Mike Figgis provides two commentaries for this disc, one for "version 15", which is the theatrical release version and one for "version 1", which is the unrated version of the movie. The commentary for "version 15" really spends much of the running time discussing the ways of the production - talking about the obstacles and technical nature of how he was able to accomplish the 4 stories in one continuous take on digital cameras. The commentary is a bit dry at times, but more often than not, Figgis is fascinating to listen to as he leads us through the entire process of making "Time Code".

Figgis also provides an additional commentary for "version 1", where he talks about differences between the two films, and provides additional comments about the production and technical details about the obstacles he had to overcome to get the film done and have the different stories work together. There are some instances where the same ground is covered, but often this provides further details about the story and the experiment.

Interactive Audio Mix: This is really the feature that I think makes this movie more suited to the interactivity that DVD provides rather than a theatrical experience. Throughout version 15 of the movie, if you select this special feature, you can choose which square you want the audio to focus on. This is in Dolby 2.0, and you use your remote control to highlight the square that you want to listen to. Extremely, extremely cool.

Video Journals: "The Making Of Time Code": This is a well-done documentary that takes a look at each element of the process that went into making the movie. Interviews with the actors provide insight on what it was like to work this way, and the feelings that they went through along the way. The documentary is not a "promotional" documentary, but a very informative and personal tour of the way that Figgis conducted this picture from the idea through filming. The documentary lasts about 17 minutes and is broken up into chapters. Even further, if you look in the commentary section on the special features menu, you'll find an additional option that allows access to these segements at different times during the film when a "time code" logo pops up.

Also: The excellent theatrical trailer in Dolby Digital 5.1 and talent files.

Final Thoughts: "Time Code" may not be something everyone enjoys, and some may take a little while to get used to the 4-picture presentation. Although some fans seemed dissapointed in the delay for DVD, it's certainly very well worth the wait. Audio/video quality is generally good, but the extras are the real treat, providing a wonderfully interactive and informative experience for the viewer. The movie doesn't always work, but it's an interesting experiment that gets an excellent and interactive presentation on Tristar's DVD - it's certainly worth at least a look as a rental.

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