Perhaps the most extraordinary experimental film ever unleashed outside the confines of the art house circuit, "Time Code" is a confident and daring attempt by director Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas," "The Loss of Sexual Innocence") to plant his flag on the barely-explored shores of 21st Century filmmaking.
Shooting on hand-held digital video in four continuous takes all running at once, Figgis splits the screen in quadrants like a security camera monitor and fiddles with the audio to draw your eye where he wants it. Then like an orchestral conductor, he unspools a precisely synchronized 93 minutes of raw, unedited, real-time footage, tracking multiple, largely-improvised narratives about a sampling of misanthropic, self-absorbed Hollywood denizens.
Packed with talented, name stars starving for something original to chew on, "Time Code's" has several stories -- some tense and emotional, others cynical and facetious -- unfolding simultaneously and often crossing paths.
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There's a lot of intrusively leaden, urban-industrial style and distracting, pop-edited minutia masquerading as cleverness in writer-director Michael Almereyda's modern Manhattan "Hamlet."
Just the inordinate amount of blatant product placement -- apparently a misguided commentary on consumerism -- is by itself enough to obscure Shakespeare's profundity and passion in a virtual haze. Ophelia listens to Moviefone in one scene for absolutely no reason -- she's not even going to the movies -- and the "To be or not to be" soliloquy takes place in the action section of a Blockbuster store, for cryin' out loud. Why the director would do such a thing is so confounding that you'll tune out half the speech trying to figure it out. Certainly that isn't what he had in mind.
But while it's burdened by such shortcomings, this Y2K date-stamped take on the melancholy Dane -- appropriately played by Ethan Hawke as a brooding, film student heir to a business empire called the Denmark Corp. -- is nonetheless a mildly compelling visitation on the Bard's most complicated tragic hero.
Continue reading: Hamlet Review