19 September 2004

Code 46 / David Holmes


Went to see Code 46 at the weekend and came out dizzy with illogic.

There's doughnut sized holes in the plot, holes threading through it like a web, holes so deeply ingrained into it that they seem like Einstein-Rosen bridges. The Oedipus myth gets swept along and hopelessly (psychologically) distorted, which ought to be a good thing, or at least an interesting thing but ends up leaving a nasty taste in your mouth.

And remember: I come from the black-heart of the West Country, for me it's simply a matter of course that your sister is already your mother who's already your one-eyed, spade-faced son in law.


Michael Winterbottom colours all his film in shades of blue-grey and this one makes the near-future Shanghai, Seattle, etc look like a wind-shrunk English seaside town in the Autumn. No bad thing but...

Those holes. God, they're everywhere.

Tim Robbins plays William (i'm reliably told he's too tall to take seriously) with an expression largely fixed between sullen disbelief and a kind of a hapless auto-eroticism while the polymorphous alien sexuality of Samantha Morton, here playing Maria as another eternal victim of the futureshock, drifts through the film like a small child, a Romanian orphan, a foundling, ever ready to succumb to whatever forces (State, passion, human failings) choose to drag her about.

I won't give the plot away: there's plenty of genetic jiggery pokery, some neat viral-jamming (William keeps popping 'empathy viruses' like a Happy Monday), a dead-end of a "Brief Encounter" love story that just about keeps everything rolling onward all based around vaguely 1984 super-computer State with dissolved / reaffirmed boundaries and a iron-claw on propagation, deviance and autonomy. Everyone speaks a kind of Universally glottal English interspersed with French, Spanish and the odd bits (although you'd perhaps expect more in a universal language) of Chinese and Japanese.

There's also a rather distasteful (and in one seen almost unwatchable) sub-text of misogyny plus some strange dirty-arabianisms (which seems especially out of place) and a vaguely Ayn Randian (?) Objectivism that never really seems to settle into an absolute ethic. In fact, the moral centre is as skewed and unreadable as an early Boy Rice 7" and this makes the film eminently 'talkable' but not especially enjoyable.


Oh...there's some poor people by the side of a long dusty highway. Where did they spring from?

My favourite bits (and all the best lines) centre on the various receptionists, cashiers, clerks, check-in girls etc who William encounters. The comedy of repetition has never been better done than that speech-impeded Chinese guy and there's good turns by various Brit actors / actresses (can you still say 'actress'? by the end of this film you will) but none of this lifts the fairly unrelenting gloom, or helps you believe in the characters.

And those plot holes...Man, I'm running out of fingers here...

I'd love to hear what Michael Winterbottom intended for all this because I've a suspicion that this is either 1) some complex metaphysical debate that's commenting on something I obviously misunderstood or 2) an example of an excellent director deciding to miss out the editing process as a result of some ill-fated Groupthinking.

Still, the music (mostly David Holmes/Free Association stuff) works well until right near the end (where there's a shock for music lovers and a treat for the kind of people who buy music but don't really like it - you'll see), making the action edgier than it might have been and supplementing Winterbottom's whole-grain approach to images with fizzing cymbals and chattering drums and muddle-eastern jazz stylings.

And to end on an upbeat note, here's a track by David Holmes:
The Free Association - Don't Rhyme No More

There's also (apparently) some audio at the hugely irritating Free Association pages but I just can't be arsed to watch all that flashing.

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