Take a Drink: for each Malick-esque shot
Take a Drink: anytime a respected actor pops up
Do a Shot: each time an old time song is used
Take a Drink: for each stylish edit
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
I’ve discussed in previous reviews my respect and perhaps even fandom for James Franco, who is a true original making interesting film projects left and right, especially in the independent genre. Both Child of God and Interior.LeatherBar. were interesting directorial experiments, and the Franco-produced Palo Alto based on a novel he had written previously is still one of my personal favorite films of the year so far. However, no film he has produced yet has been as out of the box as The Color of Time.
Originally entitled Tar, The Color of Time is written and directed by twelve people, who are all actually students at NYU University who were supervised by Franco. Instead of playing it safe and having each person do a short film of sorts and create an anthology film similar to V/H/S, the group instead attempts here to create one structured narrative despite the near-dozen people working together. This story is more interesting then The Color of Time itself, which is a plodding experiment that never translates into a worthwhile feature film.
The Color of Time is a take on the life and work of poet C.K. Williams, who while preparing for a reading in New York City begins to be haunted by moments from his past.
Despite the film’s errors, it’s important to realize the achievement the duo of students were able to make with this film. For twelve people to come together and create a cohesive storyline is a seemingly impossible task, and the dozen of them were able to pull it off admirably for the most part, even if the product is not an entirely great film. A producer could take twelve of the top writers and directors in Hollywood and the end product would perhaps be much worse than this.
The cast is largely filled with respected actors doing bit parts, but a few actors stand out. Both Henry Hopper and James Franco play Williams in his teen to adult phase, and both do a great job with their respective roles. Franco as usual is able to disappear into his character with great nuance, as the haunted poet whose past keeps getting in the way of his life. He is not in the movie as much as one would think, but does a good job whenever he is on screen. Hopper, on the other hand, probably has the most screen time out of the ensemble, and shows a great deal of range as a young Williams.
Surrounding those two is a relatively well-known supporting cast that does a solid job with their small bits in the film. Jessica Chastain is very much playing the mother role similar to in Tree of Life, and does a good job at being a maternal figure. The trio of Zach Braff, Mila Kunis, and Bruce Campbell all also do solid work in their respective roles, but are not in the film very long. Campbell in particular is only in one scene of the film.
A lot of the supporting cast is only in the film for a short time because the movie itself is extremely short. The Color of Time is only 72 minutes long, and that’s counting the credits at the end of the film. That short of the running time puts the film in a odd middle ground, in which it’s not short enough to be a short film but not long enough to feel like a true feature film. Personally, I felt the film could have been longer, fleshing out some of William’s memories a bit more.
With the lack of screen time for the side characters, a lot of these flashback memories, especially towards the latter half of the film, fail to convey their message. Those who’ve read my reviews know I am a huge Zach Braff fan, but his character along with Kunis’s have short sequences in which their characters just feel like blank slates. Kunis’s segment in particular goes towards laughably bad territory, with constant hard cuts to nuclear plants just coming off as silly.
The Color of Time tries its best to create a distinct visual style, but the look as a whole just felt off-putting to me. Sometimes the washed-out visuals work for these flashback sequences, especially during William’s younger years. However, the style as a whole felt more like a flashy technique rather than an ideal way to tell the story sequences. It’s certainly a unique look, though, and it’s important to give the dozen credit for their unique vision.
As a whole, The Color of Time’s glaring issue is that these montages as a whole do not have the profound impact that they are trying to have. Franco and company are clearly trying here to evoke quite a profound level of emotional resonance, but the film never gets close to reaching those lofty heights. The out of the box visuals and storytelling are interesting, but they seem to get away from the overall profound nature of C.K. Williams’s work.
The Color of Time in general also feels like the fifty-cent version of Terrence Malick. It’s clear that with other films like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and now Color of Time, many upcoming directors have developed an impressionistic nature around Malick’s work, trying to use a lot of the same unique visual cues. Malick, however, is a once in a lifetime director who, even when is films are so-so, has a great deal of merit.
The Color of Time is an engaging experimental film that does not come to fruition. The cast does a relatively solid job, but the film as a whole can’t quite capture the poetic power of C.K. Williams’s work.