Saturday, November 28, 2015
Story By & Directed By: Mike Figgis
Cinematography By: Patrick Alexander Stewart
Cast: Holly Hunter, Xander Berkley, Salma Hayek, Golden Brooks, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Danny Huston, Saffron Burrows, Viveka Davis, Mia Maestro, Richard Edson, Gleanne Headley, Daphna Kastner, Kyle Maclachlan, Leslie Mann, Zuleikha Robinson, Julian Sands, Alessandro Nivola, Steven Weber, Stellan Skarsgard, Aimee Graham
*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this review
Four frames of simultaneous action that alternately follow a smitten lesbian lover as she obsesses over her partner's dalliances and the tense goings-on of a Hollywood film production company.
The primary story with this movie is that it is shown in four simultaneously filmed ninety-three minute single shot takes (in other words, shown in four quadrants), with the actual plot secondary. The four cameras follow the players involved, with two or more of the four cameras sometimes filming the exact same scene from different angles and thus different perspectives. The audio on each of the four quadrants is turned up and down based on which quadrant(s) the viewer should pay most attention to at any given time. The actual plot, which takes place in Hollywood, involves the pre-production by Red Mullet Productions for the movie "Bitch from Louisiana". The production team is in an executive meeting to discuss several aspects of the movie, including problems with one of their own, Alex Green, who has been missing in action from much of the production and this meeting. Alex's problems stem from his substance abuse and philandering, his wife Emma who is contemplating leaving him, of which he is unaware. Lester Moore, the movie's director, is also causing the producers some concern as they believe he again is using drugs against company policy. The production team is also talking about casting the role of "The Bitch". One actress who wants to audition is Rose, who is having an affair with Alex as a foot in the door. Rose does not officially have an audition, although she tells her controlling lover, Lauren, that's why she is going to Red Mullet's office, while she really is meeting with Alex for a tryst. Lauren, however, believes that Rose is indeed cheating on her. Through it all, Quentin, a masseuse, is present giving free massages as a means to gain Red Mullet as a corporate client. Their goings-on come to a head during a pitch meeting by visiting European actress, Ana Pauls, who is accompanied by her agent, Bunny Drysdale, and her musician boyfriend, Joey Z.
This film is a nice experiment that feels like a waste of time ultimately.
The basic premise is that the screen is divided up into four separate smaller ones. Two on top, two on the bottom. Each screen is connected to a camera that follows a character or their story-line. So that there are four story-lines constantly playing that eventually intersect with each other.
It was initially shot on the DSR 130 DV Cam and then upgraded to Digibeta and finally HD. It was shown digitally at the Yahoo Internet Film Festival at the DGA (Directors Guild of America) on March22, 2000.
The film is obviously more of an ensemble piece that takes place in Hollywood majorly at a film company. That feels a little to inside for a major audience. It feels like more of something to amuse the same crowd involved in the making and who the characters are supposed to be. It feels even more self-indulgent then a film like FULL FRONTAL. That at least at times made itself entertaining. If just for the performances.
The film seems like it is bracing for a new technology that is going to take over Hollywood. When in actuality it was a style that stayed only with director Mike Figgis onto his next film HOTEL. Then into obscurity.
Mike Figgis is a director who started out making ambitious if basic films, then as his career advanced he seemed to take a major growing interest In experimentation. I guess this was a style he was developing to express his ideas and also give him doe thing that stood out more from his contemporaries. This seems to be the apex. As this film was one of his first after getting acclaim for the Oscar Nominated LEAVING LAS VEGAS. That had a more documentary style. With a jazz score protruding the edges of each scene of not just raw, natural sounds and silence.
He tries to make films like a jazz song actually. Plenty of freestyle riffs, but containing a constant flow, but can easily go off in another direction it seems for awhile before coming back. Yet still advancing everything.
Making this film come off more as an experiment. It seems something that would much more be at home as an art instillation or as a exhibit in a museum.
As the act of watching it is like watching a security camera. Or an editing bay. As you have your choice as to which side of the screen to watch and which story-line to pay more attention to. Though the film tips it's hand as to where it would prefer you to pay attention to. As it tends to raise the volume of the Audio it wants you to watch.
It's a film that is Interesting for a few minutes until it becomes monotonous and then seems more like an endurance test. What hurts the film also is that none of the particular story lines is that interesting. Nor does it merit a single story-line. worthwhile Seems more like an Hollywood insider movie. That tries to add melodramatic depth.
I believe there is a way to tell a story in this kind of experimental way. Though like all pioneers it is amazing to see introduced though feel like the full potential was never used or realized. This seems like something director Robert Altman must have seen in his head when he was directing his films. As he liked multiple story lines, long single takes. to let things happen in scenes and certain actions to happen and get real reactions rather than rehearsed ones and film more like you are intruding and to let the audio decide more what you should be paying attention to. As he would turn up the audio so you could hear some conversation going on more in the background of scenes. While focusing the camera on the main action. Though would have footage of the background. So as an actor tot had to keep on your toes, because you were never quite sure what he was truly centering on in a scene. I am shocked this film isn't dedicated to him.
There was a golden rule. Mike Figgis told the actors to never wear exactly the same outfit every day over the two-week shooting period. This way there could never ever be the possibility of stealing a scene from another day's shoot and cheating it in the edit. The Actors were responsible for their own costumes, hair, and make-up.
This film sort of plays out that way by again having some scenes having the audio turned up higher then the other three screens. Because he wants you to focus on their story-line. You can still see the other three, but at whatever interval in the film he wants you to focus on that one mainly. It happens once in awhile, but not too often. It seems fine so there can be a main story-line instead of just randomness
Though this was one of the first more mainstream films at the time to really showcase to me experimental cinema. Even if I was more Lured by the cast than the style.
The film was shot 15 times, over two weeks, one continuous take each time. --The film was written on music paper, exactly like a string quartet. Each bar line representing a minute.
It also is an early introduction to the more low budget DIY aspect at least for me and showed to a degree where cinema was going especially with more digital photography and projection. Something that made the audience realize while it is a film. It looks good but lacks a certain gloss that makes everything look more realistic, believable and more relatable to the audience more like we are in the room with the characters. Rather then watching at a safe distance and taking us out of the situation.
I looked forward to this maybe that was the problem. As we all have an idea of what might happen it is easy to be disappointed by what actually happens as it might not be as magical as our hopes and imagination made it seem. Though that is more our fault as we put that on it. The film nor filmmaker rarely promises us things. Either way even if I went in blind to it. I don't believe I personally would ever have liked this film. It's a nice attempt and someday I hope Mr. Figgis or another director figures out how to use this concept, well enough. For right now it is something best watched in small doses.
If it was used for a short film then maybe it would have been seen as revolutionary and the. Something to be attempted in a feature film.
The cast performs well, but if only it was for a better project. Though it is easily written off or forgotten. Almost like doing charity. The strongest person in the film is surprisingly Salma Hayek who if only the film was stronger might have gotten some major props earlier in her career other then for always just playing the sexpot. As this was the film that she really impressed me with and insane her in a new light as an actress. Though she is sexy in this film. It and her are more natural. Her beauty and body not as played up or shown exclusively in tight outfits.
I respect the films ambition. Though it is almost unwatchable unless you have been warned of how it is filmed. Hard for this film to not be thought of as pretentious. Though I give it to the film for trying something new and innovative. I also applaud the actors for trying to make this all work. Though it seems more like a film made to test a theory and is cutting edge. That might be more interesting to study.
I can't recommend the film.