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In the near, frontier-less future, only those with papelles (insurance cover) live in the comfort of cities; others live in shanty towns on the edge of the deserts that surround the cities. William (Tim Robbins), a family man, is an insurance investigator sent to Shanghai to solve a case of fake papelles. Here he meets Maria (Samantha Morton), and although she's the one creating the forgeries, he falls in love with her. He hides her crime and they have a wild, passionate affair that can only last as long as his papelles: 24 hours. Back home, William is obsessed with the memory of Maria. He tries to see her but is refused the necessary papers to travel. Desperate, he uses one of the fake papelles he kept from his investigation. He eventually tracks her down, only to discover she has been accused of violating Code 46 - a reproductive restriction for genetically related sexual partners - and her memory of him wiped.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Defying genres, or at least combining several (sci-fi, noir, romantic drama), Michael Winterbottom's Code 46 is yet another surprise: although for the past dozen years he's made a film every year, he hasn't made two films that are similar either in style or substance. Code 46 takes its sci-fi credential seriously, meaning not so much aliens or futuristic novelty but the human condition in a future of our own making. Hence the fortunate live in austere cities under a scheme of papelles, insurance certificates, and if they can't get papelles they're outcasts, forced to eek out an existence outside, probably in a desert hovel.

The imagery and symbolism and socio-political material embedded here is extensive to explore, but Winterbottom and his frequent collaborator, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, don't push any of it down our throats.

But the film is just as much a romance, albeit an unusual one. William, a muted, unengaged Tim Robbins, is infatuated with the subject of his investigations into papelle fraud. And no wonder; Samantha Morton is sensual, vulnerable and erotic in her off-beat way, and the film's emotional engine. She is the one who propels the affair from the start, and she's the one who maintains it most strongly. Her narration, possibly added in post production to provide better context for the plot developments, makes the film subjective, although much of the camerawork gives us William's pov.

Satisfyingly cinematic, Code 46 is shot by two cinematographers, and the images are striking, not least because of location and available light, as well as some graphically driven interiors. Music, too, is a powerful aide (as usual for Winterbottom) in delivering a sensory film that poses all sorts of questions about morality, fate and genetics. It's a brave, adventurous film that, despite a few flaws, delivers something unique and attains an original mix of complex elements.

There are four deleted scenes on the DVD for anyone interested, and one featurette. Although rather puffy and bloated with clips, the 15 minute behind the scenes featurette, Obtaining Cover, manages to include some interview grabs from both Winterbottom and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce which provide further insights, such as the Oedipal origins of the basic idea. The actors, while interesting to see as they are filmed in different locations and at different stages of their 'looks', are less exciting.

Producer Andrew Eaton goes into the casting process, which is mildly interesting, although he doesn't really tell us why the filmmakers thought Samantha Morton and Tim Robbins were deemed to be so perfect as the leads.

But I suspect anyone buying this DVD will be more interested in Winterbottom's film than the extras.

Published October 6, 2005

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(UK, 2003)

CAST: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, Togo Igawa, Nabil Elouhabi, Sarah Backhouse, Jonathan Ibbotson, Natalie Jackson Mendoza

PRODUCER: Andrew Eaton

DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom

SCRIPT: Frank Cottrell Boyce

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alwin H. Kuchler, Marcel Zyskind

EDITOR: Peter Christelis

MUSIC: David Holmes


RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes



PRESENTATION: Widescreen (2.35:1 /16:9 enhanced);

SPECIAL FEATURES: Obtaining cover: Inside Code 46 (Behind the scenes); deleted scenes; trailer


DVD RELEASE: October 5, 2005

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