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Short Review of Code 46 by Blackhawk


I missed it in the theaters last year, (in case it ever was in the theaters), but last night I screened Michael Winterbottom's flim-before-film-before-last & I think it cements his status as my fave working director right now. It's called "Code 46" & it is something I'd never contemplated & wasn't sure was even possible, a cyberpunk love story.

Drawing equally on the mythos of Gibson, Stephenson, & Effinger, the film depicts a chilly, mandated, global society, however w/out the standard dystopic pejoratives. There is still ample space for individuality & this is of course what will obtain, humans being the incredibly flexible monsters that we are. The patois is the best since "A Clockwork Orange", a mix of English, Spanish, & Arabic, w/ bits of Chinese, Japanese, & Hindi thrown in. While the near-future shown in the film is properly immersed in visual culture (tho not to the extent I think it will be) Winterbottom eschews transubstantiated mediated realities in favor of "Blade Runner" type mega-signage, a nostalgic conceit perhaps. AD & set design are fabulous (in some cases, literally), & MW's feel for the grand exterior dovetails seamlessly w/ intimate interior shots. Like Tarantino & other accomplished postmodernists, Winterbottom easily shifts back & forth between raw filmic spectacle, & post-ironic commentary on same, his slight-of-hand in using such cinematic quotation marks & then disappearing them again is on display here to the same extent he employed the 'nique in his masterful "24 Hour Party People", except now he shows he can do it on a backdrop that would feel familiar to a deMille.

Tim Robbins -- who I never liked much -- & who lately has been taking what amount to character roles, here gives his best performance since "Bull Durham" & his opposite, Samantha Morton (new to me) shows she's an actress to be reckoned w/. Interestingly, the abstraction the director was forced to employ in the love scenes so as to garner an "R" rating obviously rankled since he was unable to morph between the graphic & symbolic as he does in the rest of the picture. It's not a stretch to imagine this led him to his film-before last, "9 Songs", an utterly graphic tale of a simple affair.

"Code 46" is not the sort of film that takes currently obtaining tropes & magnifies them to horrific levels so as to explicate our going to hell in a hand cart -- indeed, terrible things have occurred, the world itself is a gated community, the environment is in a shambles (the world's population has become nocturnal, presumably due to the eradication of the ozone layer), & personal privacy is at an all-time low, however life goes on & it is its eerie familiarity rather than its strangeness which is ultimately so compelling.