Tuesday, February 08, 2005

DVD: Code 46 (2004)

Director Michael Winterbottom has already gone from a straight adaptation of Thomas Hardy (JUDE) to one transposed to the California of the Gold Rush (THE CLAIM). Now he’s followed up the joyously offbeat 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE with a science fiction love story. What’s amazing is how well it works.

PARTY PEOPLE screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce’s original script has exactly the right heft; the film feels more like a novella, with enough shading to hint at a larger and darker picture. Tim Robbins plays an insurance investigator sent to Shanghai to track down the source of counterfeit travel documents. He’s hepped up on an “empathy virus,” so spotting the culprit (Samantha Morton) is easy. Turning her in, alas, is not.

CODE 46’s vision of the future is one of the most striking put on film: the polyglot dialogue, the subtle but wholesale incorporation of technology into everyday life, the use of real world locations (Shanghai, Dubai) in a way that puts LOGAN’S RUN to shame.

The result is a haunting vision of a borderless tomorrow where anyone is within reach yet everyone feels isolated. It called to mind Wim Wenders’ UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD, one of the first attempts to address globalization and the pervasive sense of dislocation that came with it. It’s hard to believe that Wenders’ once-maligned film is almost 15 years old, which only proves how prophetic it was. I’d like to revisit the movie someday. Perhaps when I get the chance to see the fabled 280-minute version.

Miscellaneous: Links

Oscar producer Gilbert Cates threatens to liven up this year’s telecast. If this means the winning sound editor can’t cop a feel from Sharon Stone when she hands him his trophy, I think we’ve all lost something.

And David Thomson on how Volkswagen’s SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN ad is destroying mankind’s collective memory. His story about the difficulty of finding a copy of Anthony Mann’s MEN IN WAR takes on an additional tragic dimension considering that they’re about to strike new prints of DEEP THROAT to cash in on the release of the documentary.