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"Tape," based on a stage play of three characters talking in a motel room, has inspired writing, acting, and direction. We only see how smart and articulate its characters are, as each tests the others. The film avoids predictability, achieves full believability, and has no musical soundtrack.((Making this movie gave Hawke, Leonard, and Thurman nowhere to hide: the room is small, and they can't avoid the camera. Even small actions had to be real. Shot on Maryse Alberti's high-definition video camera, the footage isn't hand-held or awkward, the actors' and camera's movements are well-planned, and the result seems spontaneous.((The movie opens as Vince (Hawke) waits alone, downs beer, moves furniture, and takes off his pants and shirt. Knocking on the door, Johnny (Leonard) enters. The two went to a Lansing high school ten years earlier; now Johnny's in town to show his film in a festival. Trying to be happy at seeing his friend, he's unsure what Vince is up to.

Vince snorts cocaine and mentions Amy (Thurman), his first love. He regrets never having made love to her, but not as much as knowing that Johnny did, in a brief fling at the end of school. Was it love? Vince flings himself around, intimidating Johnny, whose self-possession fades. He admits to the affair. But is he a reliable witness of his own conduct?

Next, Amy knocks; she and Johnny are surprised to see each other. Vince asks them both about a tape - of Johnny's memories and Amy's past: Who should keep it? Who decides what the past means? The conflict isn't just between Vince and Johnny - two men fighting over a woman looking back and forth at them. She's more than a match in the struggle of ethics. No one is clearly right or wrong. Information seen in different lenses shifts what one or another character sees.

Belber's screenplay, based on his own play, superficially resembles Mamet's 'Oleanna." Both films are about how the events can be differently interpreted. But Belber's entire subject is points-of-view, and the question of who has the right to say what they mean.((Director Linklater's video is intimate and free through the three-way conversations. The film is about ideas, and its style is at their service. Audiences will find them stimulating; other filmmakers can use them as instruction manuals about how to use new filmic tools.
Director(s): Richard Linklater
Writer(s): Stephen Belber, based on his play
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Uma Thurman
Release Date: 2001   
Keyword: Memories; tape recording; school friends; 3-way affair; inte
Target Age: 16+   Category: other
Documentary: no
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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