THE revolution will not be televised (yet) but it's coming soon to a cinema near you.
Envelope-pushing director Mike Figgis, who had a mainstream hit with 1995's "Leaving Las Vegas," is set to release the first feature-length movie with a stellar cast shot entirely with hand-held digital cameras.
And the cutting-edge technology just got a further boost, with "Star Wars" mastermind George Lucas announcing he's planning to use six digital camcorders for "Episode II" when shooting begins in Australia in June.
Figgis said he felt compelled to explore digital technology - which captures sharper pictures than traditional celluloid - because it's "a new palate choice."
"After 12 years in the film business, I realized how conservative it is," he said. "I feel the medium is tired, and no one seemed particularly intrigued by the possibilities. With all media you need to change the techniques every so often just to refresh it."
In "Time Code," set for an April 28 release, Figgis was not content with this radical departure from conventional film-making. He shattered the rules further by employing a quadruple-split screen and shooting four interweaving narratives in a single, continuous take, with no editing - a process that would be impossible with traditional film stock.
The action unfolds in real time and is largely improvised, but heavily choreographed, with the 28 actors periodically checking their synchronized digital watches to co-ordinate their timing.
If an actor blew a scene, the entire film had to be reshot, resulting in 15 full takes of the 93-minute film.
The result is a clever but challenging-to-watch black comedy thriller - a film student's dream with debatable mainstream appeal.
While Figgis' minimalist movie, with a budget of just $4 million, has paved the way for a digital revolution, the technology's newest enthusiast is an even weightier Hollywood player.
Lucas already pioneered digital projection in a handful of movie theaters last year with "Episode I," and an all-digital production promises higher resolution, sharper sound and more efficient editing.
"Tests have convinced me that the familiar look and feel of motion-picture film are fully present in this digital system," Lucas said.
Figgis said that when "Time Code" screened at the Yahoo Festival in Los Angeles during Oscar week, the response from the film community was "amazing."
"I got the sense people were genuinely turned on by the realization of what can be done with the technology," he said. "Really, there are no rules anymore."
The 52-year-old Brit with the mad-professor hair conceded that his experimental movie would probably be labeled pretentious, as was his 1999 film "The Loss of Sexual Innocence."
"I agree it's a tougher nut than a standard film, but I don't think it's inaccessible," he said. "My point is that anybody who makes the effort to understand the film will be rewarded by having understood the film."
The Post caught up with Figgis after he'd watched his film - which stars Salma Hayek, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Holly Hunter, Saffron Burrows and Stellan Skarsgard - on the big screen for the first time.
Ironically, "Time Code" has to be transferred to celluloid to be screened in conventional theaters, leading to the obvious question: Does Figgis feel he's ahead of his time?
"In a sense," he said. "But only because we're talking of two completely different systems. One - digital film-making - is like a sci-fi monster that's been born and will become an adult very quickly, and the other is the adult that's already there, which is the film business as we know it.
"The film business will have to adapt, but it will do so in a slow and slightly lumbering fashion."
by Megan Turner - NY Post