Richard Linklater's latest, Tape
(Lions Gate Home Entertainment) never played here, and got only a short run in the director's hometown of Austin. Given that it has stars (Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Robert Sean Leonard), the easiest explanation for this is that exhibitors are still scared of movies shot on digital video. Too bad, because this tightly wound, little black comedy is fantastic, and the video format was well suited to the material: All the action takes place in one motel room, with three characters, in something like real time. And it's shot in improvised compositions, with the actors doing their thing as a tiny crew hustles to keep up with them.
The ever-maligned Hawke gives a performance to erase the memory of a thousand moments of pouty pretension, as a perpetual screw-up with a twisted sense of justice. It's his movie, really — Leonard and Thurman are great, but the story revolves around a ten-year old secret that Hawke feels has ruined his life, and he revels in the notion that he can also use it to ruin his best friend's life. Saying more would spoil the fun.
Speaking of Linklater, his Waking Life
(Fox) just hit DVD, and it's practically perfect. I'm not talking about the movie itself, which is a great trip — the disc's bonus features have everything the film's fans have been wanting to see: an in-depth look at the unique computer animation process used, a reel of choice selections from the film in live-action, pre-animation form, bits of deleted animation and peeks at some illustration styles that were abandoned. There is even a short film from Bob Sabiston (who designed the animation software) that shows how extreme the expressionism can get when animators are freed from the considerations of a feature-length film. You don't have to be a Texas booster to be astounded that Linklater released both of these very experimental — and entertaining — films in the same year.