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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • None
  • Teaser trailer
  • 4 Theatrical trailer - Italian for Beginners, I'm With Lucy, Read My Lips, The Best Man's Wedding
  • Cast/crew biographies - Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Robert Sean Leonard, Richard Linklater, Stephen Belber
  • Fact file - More About InDigEnt Films
Tape (Rental)
20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 83 mins . MA15+ . PAL


Everyone has a weakness, proof that we are all held together by the fragility of a fine piece of sticky tape just waiting to break free. So what to make of this film? Well to try to put it in perspective, it’s been over 24 hours since the end credits started to roll and thoughts of the film are still flying around in this reviewer’s head. So hopefully by the end of this, these thoughts will have unravelled and have formed a long sequential strong bond – just like that of an audio cassette.

The plot may be a little sticky, featuring some video and audio (recorded on some sort of tape) to guide you through, with each character hiding under a façade, or a mask, if you will – a clear, transparent binding mask like cellotape. But don’t forget, the strong electrical tape that drags in the minds of these three individuals, and ties them all together, giving them the opportunity to measure each other. And this isn’t the sort of measuring that can be done with a measuring tape, no sir, this measurement gauges so much more than a 100cm length of marked plastic can do. This measurement is a sign of personality, integrity and honesty – something impossible to measure with such an implement. Hmm, OK, enough with the metaphor, but it’s a bit of a gluey plot yet in the end it’s all stuck together firmly.

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Devilishly beautiful

Written for the stage by Stephen Belber, also the man behind the screenplay, Tape draws in on a snapshot of three individuals who happened to share a rather questionable week during senior year at high school ten years earlier. We have fantastic performances from the three-(wo)man cast, who simply tear up the screen with a complex, tense and rather realistic portrayal of some oddball characters. Welcome Vince, played by Ethan Hawke, a drug-dealing volunteer fire fighter who is in Lansing, Michigan, for his best friend’s film screening at a film festival. He has recently been dumped by his girlfriend, for reasons not 100% clear, but we do know that it had something to do with slightly violent tendencies. Great guy, huh? Next welcome Jon, the budding young filmmaker, played by Robert Sean Leonard, who has just stopped by to visit his mate Vince who had just jetted in from California. The chit chat between Vince and Jon turns sour when some rather serious allegations are laid, and to make matters worse, are recorded on tape – proof of the conversation. But then tie in Amy as well, played by a gorgeous yet slightly unhinged Uma Thurman, who just steals the show. She is the assistant in the D.A.’s office, and has perked herself up after high school and amounted to something more than a fire-fighting drug dealer. This tape gets tensions between the trio flaring, minds opening and issues resurfacing, giving everyone something to think about. But what goes on is for the viewer to discover, the driving force behind this powerfully compiled script and the obscurity of these three individuals who are not only stuck together by an audio tape, but also by an invisible sticky tape wrapping. But we all know how strong sticky tape can (not) be, and when things get tense somewhere along the line it breaks and things really start to happen...


The transfer comes to us in a fairly mediocre fashion with an anamorphically-enhanced digital video effort and a single Dolby Digital 2.0 track. So no surprises here that this isn’t the nicest transfer around.

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C'mon dude, I thought you were "up" for this?

The 1.85:1 video looks reasonable, however it’s like someone’s spiked home movies presented on a small round plastic disc. Given the confines of such a small shooting space, Linklater uses interesting perspectives from which to shoot, showing some truly bizarre yet interesting angles. For example, sequences with the camera resting on a table or the floor, giving a very voyeuristic feel to the piece. But anyhoo, the clarity of the image is lacking somewhat, with some shots suffering a soft focus, aided by a slightly confused auto focus due to the complicated dim lighting conditions. Along with some soft edges comes a fine wash of film grain, which adds atmosphere to the film and makes it feel like you’re watching the events unfold through a smoke screen. Ah, no wait, that’s just actual smoke in the film. So, we have a smoky set, potentially a compressionist’s nightmare with a complex and detailed palette, yet the intricate details are mastered with such precision and are only limited by the rather poor clarity of the source image. Posterisation effects are minimal, with the odd background receiving some minor scattered-ness, which is nothing terribly distracting for the average viewer.

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It's the attack of the killer pixelation... (give it a larger look)

Colours are fairly dim, dark and dingy with very low tonal elements. The colours are restricted to the odd blue flash, the interior of the motel room (predictably brown) and a deep palette of blacks. At times the shadows become overtly murky and this really detracts from the clarity of the image, totally lacking in definition. Some sequences, such as the rough ’n’ tumble midway through the piece just becomes a dark blobbly blur as two characters wrestle around in the dark areas between beds on the floor. These sorts of issues are more production problems than transfer problems, but still something to keep in mind for budding young digital video filmmakers. One odd effect occurs at the end of some sequences towards the end of the film. Just before the shot changes to another, the image sometimes appears to pixelate. For an example, check out the image at the start of this paragraph. It may not be the largest image, but you can get a vague idea. This is not terribly obvious in some instances, but a very brief and minor flaw nonetheless.

The solo Dolby Digital 2.0 English soundtrack is of quite a high standard, but nothing really thrilling. Dialogue is of paramount importance for this piece, and this comes across clearly and accurately, with no distortion or synch issues. However, dialogue levels do vary from time to time, with some areas at a reasonable level, and others quite soft. These moments come and go, so it may be an idea to keep your audio remote handy. The dialogue is centred in the front of the soundstage, with little separation between the left and right channels. There is no need for music during the film due to the somewhat complex and intriguing content, yet during the end the slightly corny I’m Sorry by Brenda Lee is placed over the swirling credits. For this film, your surrounds and woofsubber take the night off.

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Do you dare reveal the mask(ing) of the Tape?

On the extras front, we start off with some unskippable Twentieth Century Fox and Palace Films tags and are then given some simple 16:9 enhanced menus, lacking animation but featuring some background audio. From the extras page we have access to a collection of cast and crew biographies for Ethan Hawke (Vince, three pages), Uma Thurman (Amy, three pages), Robert Sean Leonard (Jon, two pages), Richard Linklater (director, two pages) and Stephen Belber (writer, two pages). For the actors, they are given a character rundown as well as some background information on themselves as well as a selected filmography. Next up is a theatrical trailer for Tape which runs for 1:55 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio in an aspect of 1.33:1. this trailer does a pretty good job of describing the film, but in retrospect, this reviewer found it more beneficial to go in cold turkey, knowing little about the plot and characters. Next up is a three-page set of information entitled More About InDigEnt which gives a bit of a background on Independent Digital Entertainment and the digital video aims of the company. Finally we have the propaganda for other Palace films, funnily enough called More From Palace Films featuring trailers for Italian For Beginners (1:59, 1.33:1), I’m With Lucy (1:34, 1.85:1 not 16:9), Read My Lips (1:40, 1.85:1 not 16:9) and The Best Man’s Wedding (1:08, 1.85:1 not 16:9). All of the trailers feature Dolby Digital 2.0 audio in a variety of languages, which feature burnt-in subtitles when appropriate.

For a night’s viewing, this film may fill in nearly 90 minutes, but it’s one for the patient and the adventurous. The script is quick and witty, providing deep and dark characters with which to try to relate with. It’s definitely not a film for everyone, but if you get the chance and you’re in a good frame of mind, give it a shot.

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  •   And I quote...
    "At first you go “huh” but then it all falls into place as if firmly stuck together with some invisible tape."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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