RIORI Vol. 2, Installment 13: Mike Figgis’ “Timecode” (2000)


The Players…


The “Story”…

A harrowing chronicle of fear and loathing in Los Angeles. Shot on digital video in real time, four stories are told simultaneously, each in a separate on-screen frame, depicting the City of Angels at its least angelic, with sex romps, drugs and Hollywood antics taking center stage. Sounds like a typical day in Tinsel Town, split four ways.

The Rant…

For some reason, either out of respect for the reading public or the fact that I’ve been out of snarky character for the past few reviews (oh dear, I’ve begun to take myself seriously), I feel the need to apologize for the last installment of RIORI. It’s not that I want to recant what I wrote about From Hell. I did like the movie. It’s just I fear I’m starting to crawl up mine own ass and sounding like a stuffy, professional movie critic, getting further and further away from beating on The Standard I so hotly held onto a year ago when I started this shebang.

Truth be told: I hate movie critics, and with a few choice exceptions, I find them to be ignorant, pompous, joyless creeps who either have little to no sense of fun and/or, well, are stuffy asshats. F*ck them. Movies are supposed to be looked upon as fun, first and foremost. I’d rather take on a half-assed tweet about the latest Transformers installment as review than an uptight, arrogant take on a movie series that wasn’t meant to be anything but fun in the first place (although I admit, Michael Bay’s films in general suck). And I don’t wanna be hoodwinked by some scribbler into seeing a sh*tty movie who has Fellini enemas every weekend to ward off the popcorn demons. You gotta have the dumb to go with the smart. Summer blockbusters are as American as Latino, pizza and being Made In Japan, and indie films are not the be all and end all of cinematic j*zzum, as some critics would have you think (either way). So extricating my brain from my sphincter and deciding to get back on track, I tackled an experimental film this time out.

*slaps forehead in the fashion of Homer Simpson*

Oops. Well, like I said on the title page, I am not a movie critic. I am a consumer advocate. I am also an idiot. Read on.

I usually give a flowery synopsis of the movie at this point in my screed. Well this time out, I ain’t doin’ it. It’s simply because Timecode has no plot. This li’l stinker of an indie project so incredibly ego-driven is nothing more than an exercise in irritating an audience, both emotionally and physically. You see, Timecode was shot on four digital camcorders, all a single take, and each feed is played out simultaneously on the screen in quadrants, not unlike a bank of security camera monitors. The audio fades in and out of each “screen” to hint at plot progression. But there is no damn plot. The whole wad is an improvised ensemble piece ostensibly about the daily goings-on at a Hollywood production company that grinds along for 90 minutes in such an incoherent fashion you gotta wonder who bankrolled this film. It’s not a film for the ADHD generation. Truth be told, this movie has Down Syndrome.

Timecode is very hard to follow at first. It’s kinda like getting your vision checked at the doctor’s. You gotta double check every frame to make sure you’re getting the whole of the half-baked, pseudo-existentialist plotline. In some aspects its oddly engaging in a novelty sense, like that “Pac-Man Fever” one hit wonder (that dates even me). The movie plays out as one grand experiment fevered by caffeine and hubris, but not without a few charms. For instance, name a flick that features a supple Salma Hayek make out with Jeanne Tripplehorn and later f*ck a lumpy, boozy Stellan Skarsgard with the rough cuts of a sorta porno screen test as backdrop? What? You know one? F*ckin’ drunken liar.

Here’s a stitch: Timecode had a broke-ass budget and still managed to tank at the box office. I know we’re talking limited release here, but when you drop only $5 million on production and only recoup a little over $1 million at the box office…Sh*t, you could’ve smelled the flop sweat coming from director Figgis’ brow. Probably due to the screaming of the editors. A cheapie that couldn’t recoup the cost of catering. Pathetic, you say? Well, I could call it gutsy. I won’t, but still…

Timecode is like the apex predator of a popular film style of the 90’s. Like the intersecting story arc model (Pulp Fiction, Go, Magnolia, etc.) taken to its Mountain Dewiest extreme, this flick overreaches. But unlike those more palatable (and plot driven) films, Timecode fails to give a sh*t about the audience. There ain’t nuffin wrong with improvisation in movies, but when it gets overused (or the sole MO of the movie) it alienates the audience; there’s nothing solid to center in on. Beyond especially who you have to watch four films at once. I know, I know. It’s the same film. I don’t care. I only have two eyes. Seriously, having to try to make an attempt at concentration for a film hell bent for leather to be off kilter…F*ck, gimme an Advil. Seriously, I got a fur-real headache watching this movie.

Still, I gotta give Mike “Leaving Las Vegas” Figgis props for his nerve (though mindless and inconsiderate) in creating this Petri dish of a movie. I figure Timecode was too smart for me. It probably was, what with my adoration of early John Cusack films. I had to Black Dahlia it and watch it twice to make sure I “got it.” I didn’t. And yet I got in one viewing.

Wait! That film was entertaining! Timecode left my brow permanently furrowed. Ow.

I’m gonna go watch One Crazy Summer again for the umpteenth time.

The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? Relent it. Pass the aspirin.

Stray Observations…

  • I suspect that which frame you’re drawn to says a lot about you.
  • This film required the least amount of notes I have ever taken. Yay! I saved ink!

Next Installment…

What’s the password? Swordfish.



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