Watching the birth of an art form

Film: `Quantum Project' makes the leap of distributing a major movie over the Web.

May 06, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

The first major-budget film to be released exclusively on the Internet has it all: Talking protons, women playing accordions, VW Beetles being struck by lightning, walking drink glasses, you name it.

"Quantum Project," a fictional exercise in love and relative physics that made its Web debut at midnight Thursday, could prove an intriguing piece of moviemaking; with a reported budget of some $3 million and a cast that includes Stephen Dorff ("Backbeat"), Fay Masterson ("Eyes Wide Shut") and John Cleese, it comes with a fairly impressive pedigree.

Too bad it's all displayed on a screen about half the size of a baseball card.

Twenty years from now, when we're all sitting around downloading movies into our computers and conventional TVs are quaint relics of bygone days, "Quantum Project" may be remembered as a pioneer, as the little film that started it all. But right now, it's a 32-minute piece of fluff that costs $3.95 to download (at www.sightsound.com) and just isn't worth the hassle.

Oh, yes, there is hassle involved; with our T1 lines here at The Sun, it took roughly 45 minutes to download the film at low resolution -- and the first time we tried to watch it, the computer crashed. Then again, I shouldn't complain; with a 56K modem, the download time is said to be between four and six hours.

The screen size makes it almost impossible to read the credits -- particularly at the end, where they look like little more than blue smudges. Detail within individual scenes is almost impossible to make out (I assume that was Masterson and Dorff making out as the film opened, but don't hold me to it). And watching a movie in the middle of a newsroom, with lights on overhead and people talking all around, hardly counts as pristine viewing conditions.

Told mostly in ponderous -voice-over narration, "Quantum Project" follows quantum physicist Paul Pentcho (Dorff) as he tries to apply the laws of science to the vagaries of love. He works at a huge European superconductor, where subatomic particles are thrown at each other at speeds of 666 million mph, and when they hit, all heck breaks loose -- "It's orgasmic, every time," Paul says.

Maybe, he conjectures, some of those same laws of physics can be applied to love. Even Paul's father, Alexander (Cleese), admits it all sounds a bit out there. But that doesn't stop Paul from trying to improve his relationship with his girlfriend, Mia (Masterson) with a little quantum theorizing. And Mia's not above a little cosmic thinking herself; at one point, she tells Paul, "Reality is what you make it. But only if you choose to live your life that way."

Huh?

It would be nice to really see "Quantum Project." Although much of the dialogue and action seems like little more than a higher-grade version of "Doctor Who," the sets are impressive, the photography beautiful. Look forward to the day it can seen on something bigger than a breadbox.

Assistant Systems Editor Kasey Jones contributed to this article.

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