Every now and again through the powers of secret-agents and power brokers I get to see something unique, something that most will not get to see. Today was one such day. Due to the nature of the event I will not detail whether or not I was in Austin or L.A. or N.Y. or Chicago. You see, the location is not very important in this case.
I saw WHAT DREAMS MAY COME on this day. I've been harping about how beautiful the dang poster has been forever. Or the effects that Digital Domain, Mass.Illusions, LLC, POP Film , CIS Hollywood, Cinema Production Services, Inc have contributed to. But specifically I think the issue that's been drawing the biggest ink upon the page is the tampering with the ending. I have heard there are now 3 different versions, I know of two of them. The third, the latest, I have not yet seen. And the print of the film I saw had an Ennio Morricone score, and the version you are likely to see will have a Michael Kamen score. I saw no incomplete effects shots, the film was immaculate, with flawlessly beautiful effects. But let's get into the review, which of course has no real spoilers.
The film is, I fear, not for all. I hate to say that because I looooooooooooooooooove this wonderful movie. Why then do I say it's not for all? Because there are many people that don't look at death, they don't stare at it, they don't contemplate what comes after. It's something they can neither see nor feel. It's the unknown, and when dealing with the unknown, tempers flare, feelings are trampled and the world is divided into black and white. Vincent Ward has given life to one of Matheson's best in my opinion. And the film hangs well above SOMEWHERE IN TIME, which I have loved my entire life. Why? Because it is astonishingly non-traditional. This film is quite honestly a $100 million dollar (looking) art film. I would feel completely at home watching this in that art house dive we all love. Whether that be here in Austin, or at any of the Art House 'dives' you collect yourselves to. Ya know the places, it's where you first discovered Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, The Coens, Tarantino, Soderberg, Branagh, Del Toro, Spike Lee, etc etc etc... And it's most likely where you first saw Vincent Ward's work.
But this is not a film for 245 screens, no, this film will play in over a thousand screens, and maybe if I click my heels and wish upon a star the film will find that thread... that cultural thread. You know the one, it's the thread that you were sewn to with a flick like Forrest Gump. But deep down I have that sick feeling that mass culture will turn a cold shoulder.
I've often pondered the dead. There was a period, about the time I started the site, where I obsessed on it. When you can't get out of bed, death is never far from one's thoughts. Laying in my room I often contemplated heaven and hell. What that would be like, would it be like a big comic convention.. You know where you would go up to Monet and geekily ask for a moment of his time. Could you eat? And if so, how much. Is there a bartering system, or is everything free and paid for so long as you do your part in the hereafter... Is it set up in a strata of goodness. With really great good people up top, while the rest of us merely decent types stare up thinking... "I wish I had the skybox seats" Maybe it's like Jason and the Argonauts, and we all become gods playing big games of chess with pieces that represent people. And perhaps that's why life is so arbitrary, because some yahoo from the 1800's is controlling your piece and enjoys getting you in trouble.
Then there's that nightmarish vision of them damn cherubs running around with bows and arrows herding the normal afterlifers into herds then thinning the herd down, one person at a time. What happens to these thinned out types... noone knows..
Would hell be a conformist nightmare of paperwork and cubicles processing the moments of the living in nice easily readable text in preparation for Satan Claus? Or maybe it's that face first in a pile of boiling pig shit that Dante was oh so fond of. Perhaps Hell is being a talented screenwriter with a project in production at Warner Brothers. Or perhaps it's being a fly on Hallenbeck's wall. Or perhaps it's being stuck your scariest horror film. But if that were the case what would happen if you suddenly stopped...pointed and said, Rob Bottin and Tom Savini did that better!!!
Basically this is all a way of saying I have always looked at the afterlife with that morbid gallows humor that I have, and this is the first time that I've seen a filmed portrayl of how I wish it to be. The film deals with issues of what makes a man/woman/being. Is it merely our mortal coil, or are we something a bit more. My friend Copernicus and I have had this discussion, and Copernicus is a quite a bit on the atheist side of things. I, myself, am not a churchgoer. I have often times come to the personal understanding (which is always my belief for how one should deal with this sort of belief system) that there is something more. But is it something that can be written about, ordered and filed in the drawer beside one's bed in a foreign land. Or is it an intangible part of reality that we are not aware of. Is a tornado actually a square dance of the undead gone insane? A hurricane as a giant unseen finger stirring the soup? I don't know, but it's wonderful stuff to contemplate.
Ultimately the film portrays some of the most beautiful and stunning use of digital effects yet. Prior to digital effects, this would have been impossible. Matte Paintings don't begin to allow the level of background movement that this has.
Robin Williams is a national treasure when he isn't doing a "for the money" gig. Here he is a human being, not a hamster on speed. He's tender, vulnerable, joyious, melancholy, bitter, loving and on and on and on. His eyes, his smile, his wretched face... he's amazing.
Annabella Sciorra is a real being. A portrait of someone who's life has been torn asunder. This is far and away her best role. She plays the flipside of the soul mate coin which she is joined with Robin.
That term soulmates... that is explored in this film. And when you watch the connection these two have you should believe it, at least I did, but I'm a notable cream puff remember. But it made me long to stare into a pair of eyes and for there to be an instant mutual acknowledgement of eternity. To be breathing the same breath from the moment of birth, till finally with your first embrace you share the breathing of that breath. A relationship where language is of no use, because the world is revealed in glances and stares, of hand tremblings and baited breaths. To have someone with whom time does not exist, not because you're in the afterlife, but because so long as the other exists there is oxygen in your tank. They become your Thompson's Water Seal, allowing you to weather any storm. That, more than anything, is what I want.
And this film expresses that. It's about not being able to exist in death without the other. It's about giving up paradise, rational thought, your mind... all to be with the other. It's about not being able to go on. It's a painful story, but then these stories always are. Pain never hurts so bad as when it matters.
This is where I begin cheering POLYGRAM for the existance of this film. This is a film I can't imagine being made, but I think the gods it does. It's a movie that for some strange reason I feel exists just for me. My sister feels the same way. But there is one thing I've heard that you won't. Morricone's score. It's beautiful. The best score I've heard this year. It's gone. POOF! Apparently they want something a bit more oomphy.... so they'll go with Michael Kamen, and I like Michael Kamen, but I love Morricone's score. It's as if you mixed Gabriel Yared's CITY OF ANGELS with Morricone's THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY mixed with a soft touch of Handel. It's gorgeous. I love it. It's exquisite. I'm sure the memory of this music will slowly fade over time, the Kamen score will become the final music, and we will find ourselves with another solid Kamen piece. I hope and pray that Kamen's works on so many nuances like the Morricone, I do, I really hope that, because this movie deserves the very best. Cause it should be with like.
It comes out the same day as ANTZ. I suggest seeing both films, ANTZ second. Well sleep is beckoning and I can't keep that witch away forever.... Adios...