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Tape

I have to admit, the digital video is starting to look more promising. For a while there I was about to declare it my arch-enemy. It never looked like a real movie. It always looked like crap. But it was winning over directors like Spike Lee, lowering their standards. Either it looked muddy and ugly (like Bamboozled) or like a TV special (like Original Kings of Comedy). Even in the best cases it just looked like cheap film stock (Chuck and Buck) and in the only case where it looked really great (Julien Donkey Boy) it was because they transferred it to film and then back to video and then back to film, or some crazy shit like that that nobody else is gonna bother to try.

I’m still skeptical but I must admit that the technology is improving, making it more acceptable. They’re even using digital video for important works like the next Soderbergh film and the third installment in the Mariachi trilogy. I saw an ad for Star Wars Part 2 and although it looked more artifial than part 1, I would never have guessed it was all shot on some super high tech rich guy camcorder.

TapeTape is a low-profile Richard Linklater movie coming soon to video. It was shot on digital video and it pretty much has the Chuck and Buck look, like it was shot on cheap film stock. So what is important here is not necessarily the look but that much ballyhooed democratization of digital video. You know, how it makes moviemaking more affordable, making it easier for a new guy to break into the industry, or for established filmatists to try risky or non-commercial projects.

I guess the way I look at it, digital video is just like the internet. This web sight pretty much sums up the whole issue of democratizing technology. On the one hand it’s pretty cool that a dude like me could have a world wide forum for expression like this. On the other hand, it’s pretty sad that a dude like me could have a world wide forum for expression like this. And imagine how much more of this type of crap there is to wade through!

Digital video is the same way. I’m glad Richard Linklater could just do a real quick, minimalistic shoot, adapting a three character, one location play into the most intimate possible movie. All three of the actors (the dude from Gattaca, the dude from Last Days of Disco, and the chick from Pulp Fiction) are pretty good. The story is very theatrical, but compelling, challenging your perceptions and assumptions, pulling some twists, building to an interesting climax without answering questions too neatly. I liked it. I was glad I watched it. I was glad he made it.

I’m glad other people are trying this type of shit too. Soderbergh’s got people like David Duchovny and Julia Roberts doing a movie on dv that’s mostly improv, with them doing their own makeup and clothes, not having trailers, getting paid less. It’s a worthwhile experiment. Most of the Dogma movies turn out interesting. Why not do one with movie stars, and see if it makes them cry like babies? I want to do a Dogma Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle. For the most part I like this movement.

But this could lead to big trouble. Linklater musta made this one fast – all he needed was three actors, one hotel room and a pre-existing play. He probaly borrowed the camera, the lights, the editing equipment. There are a few simple props and I guess he probaly had to order a pizza or two during filming. But that’s about it. No wonder he was able to have another movie come out at around the same time as Waking Life.

This is simple, this is cheap, this is accessible. And that means it is prone to abuse. Imagine what happens when this technology falls into the wrong hands. Imagine the depths of self indulgence and audience discomfort that science can now carry us to.

I am speaking, of course, of Kerwin Smith and/or his wife. What could be worse than having a new Chasing Amy every month? I’ll tell you. Smith’s wife is working on a documentary on the making of Silent Bob and Jay Attacks which they’re hoping will be ready for the Clerks 10th anniversary dvd, already being planned. Smith says the documentary will be four or five hours long!

It can’t be long before we see re-enactments of Kerwin Smith’s childhood, released theatrically in monthly 8-hour installments.

Good job on Tape, Linklater. But don’t let silent bob find out.

thanks rich

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 3rd, 2001 at 1:12 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Tape”

  1. The Original Paul

    March 28th, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Ok, this is gonna be another “Paul bashes another respected Richard Linklater joint that a lot of people obviously really like” thing. At least you SCHOOL OF ROCK fans don’t have anything to worry about, ’cause I liked that one.

    TAPE, on the other hand… oh boy.

    Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: yes, it’s worse than BOYHOOD. And those of you who’ve read my posts about that particular movie should probably be bracing yourselves. But y’know what, I’m going to say a few nice things about BOYHOOD, solely as a means of comparison. (Seriously, I could not stand the experience of watching either BOYHOOD or TAPE, so don’t read too much into this.)

    Yeah, I hated the experience of watching BOYHOOD a lot more than I hated the movie itself. I can respect what Linklater was trying to do with BOYHOOD, even if I don’t think he did it particularly well. And I can understand people liking it. If the cliches, the scoring, and the boy’s general lack of character didn’t bother you, then there’s stuff to like about BOYHOOD. As I said in my write-up of it, there are some sweet moments between the boy and his sister, as well as the mother and her children. If these things make more of an impact on you than the things I’ve just listed that bothered me, then BOYHOOD could be a good film for you. I certainly have no problem with it from a technical standpoint. My problems are all to do with the story, characters, cliches and presentation.

    TAPE is interesting because I think it fails for the exact opposite reason. My problems with it are ALL to do with the technical aspects of it. I can’t say that I’m sure the story it was telling needed to be told exactly, but I don’t have any particular problems with it from that standpoint.

    Nope, my problem with TAPE is that it’s a student project. A bad student project. A project so bad, it never managed to convince me that anything in it was real. Which is a massive shame because you have three talented actors in there who are obviously doing their level best (Uma in particular is fantastic in this movie). It doesn’t matter.

    I mean, I hate to pull this comparison ’cause it seems rather like making a Hitler comparison in an argument on the Internet or something, but it almost makes me think of the Star Wars prequels. We’ve had people on this forum (and many, many others) argue for months about the story, the characters, etc. Well that’s all well and good, but any problems I have with those aspects of the films (and I have lots of problems) pale in comparison to the main one I have, which is my total disbelief in anything I’m watching. I mean, you can point out Jar Jar’s character flaws for months, but in the end, does it matter? When he’s talking to Liam Neeson, I never once thought that he was real or that these were two actual people inhabiting the same space or time. In comparison to that, all other points are pretty much moot, surely?

    I think that from a purely technical standpoint, TAPE might be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Which is not to say I hated the story or characters that they were trying to portray… my problem is that they never convinced me that anything I was watching was real. The direction and editing of this movie is just a mess, so damn bad that it’s actually distracting. It’s been a long time since I watched it but I’m pretty sure it opens with a soundless five-minute or so shot of a man coming into a hotel room and bouncing on a bed. I don’t even understand this. I don’t know why anybody who wrote, directed or edited this movie would think it would be a good use of that actor, or my time. It establishes nothing except maybe that the guy is nervous, and I don’t see why it was necessary to take as long as it did to get this point across. I mean, maybe there’s something else going on here that I’m missing… but I didn’t “get it” if so.

    The camerawork in TAPE is distractingly bad. The “action”, or what there is of it, is shot from unnatural angles. Frequently we seem to see it from waist- or even knee-height. It’s one of the most distracting things because it takes you completely “out of the movie”. The whole point of a one-room drama is that the audience should feel that they’re “present”, that they’re right there and close to the action. The direction, editing and camerawork of TAPE makes this impossible.

    To me, TAPE is a one-room drama made by people who have no idea how to actually shoot a one-room drama. That’s my only problem with it – that it’s incompetently made. I have no problems with story, character, etc (these are the things that usually really annoy me). I can deal with laughably bad filmmaking in individual scenes in a movie. The trouble with TAPE is that, like BURIED, it’s effectively only one scene that lasts the entire movie, so there’s just no escape from how bad it is.

    When I posted about ATTACK FORCE, I mentioned a scene where a convoy of trucks are driving along a road in three separate shots. In the first and third of those shots, the night is completely clear; in the second shot, there’s mist everywhere. Not only did they forget to keep the mist levels consistent from shot to shot, but you don’t have to look very hard to see a giant plume of artificial fog coming out of the back of one of the trucks in the shot! See, this shit to me is just hilarious.

    Now imagine that that one shot lasted for the entire ninety-minute movie, and it was painfully obvious the whole way through that the smoke machine was in-shot the entire time. I’m guessing that wouldn’t be hilarious for very long. In fact it would probably become pretty tiresome pretty fast, right? Well that’s pretty much my impression of TAPE. I can’t get over just how badly-directed the movie is. To me that supercedes everything else about it – the characters, the story, the acting. And unfortunately it’s not just one bad scene; this is the entire movie. In a way I think the BURIED comparison is not a fair one because of just how bad BURIED is in every other way. I’m not claiming that TAPE is anywhere close to being that bad (it’s sure as hell not that stupid). But I still can’t get over TAPE’s direction.

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