Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with some more reviews of Darren Aronofsky's Sci-Fi romance flick THE FOUNTAIN. This one seems to be dividing audiences much in the same way that films like DONNIE DARKO and 2001 did. Those that have the movie wash over them think it's the second coming and those that fight it seem to find it pretentious, arty and dull. That's good for me, as I'm usually on the side that gets to enjoy these types of flicks. However, nothing pains me more than seeing some arty, slow piece of crap that thinks it's smarter than it is. I hope I side with these guys below.
You'll get two super-glowing reviews below. I love the passion in both reviews and I hope I have that exact same feeling after watching it. If any filmmaker has earned my trust, it's Aronofsky. The below two reviews aren't heavy on the spoilers, but just to keep things civil and safe I've spoiler-tagged this story for those innocents who don't want to know. For the rest of us, enjoy!!!
Tonight at the Winnetka 21, deep in the Los Angeles valley, Darren Aronofsky's highly anticipated "THE FOUNTAIN" screened to a packed house of recruited test screeners.
The Winnetka 21 is not the first theatre in LA I'd think of testing an intelligent, genre bending work of art like this (let's just kindly use the word "suburb") but judging by the pin-drop silence throughout, the film transcends demographics and somehow, defying all expectations, is an across the board success with general audiences.
Aronofsky has made the unthinkable: A film that will please the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY crowd, as well as the TERMS OF ENDEARMENT CROWD.
The plot centers around Tom, a Doctor played with natural intensity by Hugh Jackman, trying to find a cure for his wife Izzy's (Rachel Weisz) terminal illness. Instead of spending her last days by her side, he's at the lab trying to crack a new medication using part of a tree found in South America.
The film jumps back and forth between this present day situation and the far past where Tom is a Spanish soldier trying to find a Tree of Life the Mayans have hidden in a secret temple. The Queen (again, Rachel Weisz) has asked Tom to find this tree to save Spain and, more importantly, so the two can live together forever.
The final setting of the film is the distant future where Tom is in a sphere floating through space, trying to get the tree (which we are led to believe is a manifestation of his dying wife Izzy) to an expiring star in the hopes it will bring her life again.
If all of this sounds hard to follow or impenetrable, it's only because the film isn't terribly literal, and to pin it down with a simple logline is not only impossible, but can't do it justice. But the film is NOT hard to follow and is terrifically engaging on an emotional level.
Stylistically, as with Aronofsky's previous works, the cinematic language is visually aggressive. However, the stylishness of it here seems warranted and motivated by emotion. Striking visuals serve as motifs to help the viewer connect the dots between the fractured storyline, and this works beautifully. Extreme closeups of the characters on draw us deeper into their joy and despair.
The chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz is completely effortless and both turn in fantastic, emotionally wrenching performances. I will admit I actually wept on and off for the last 15 minutes I was so involved in Tom's desperate fight with the innevitability of his wife's passing.
It is these performances that anchor and ground the film, allowing us to truly relate to this fantastic and original world like nothing we've ever seen.
And you HAVEN'T seen anything like this before. The future world somehow manages to be obviously futuristic, yet completely organic. It's not a sea of CGI, but rather more like an ACTUAL SEA.
This film is an absolute triumph. The best work Aronofsky and his collaborators have put to screen yet. It's impossibly epic, yet staggeringly intimate. You never get lost in it's vastness because at its core it's very simple. It's about Life, Love and Death.
It doesn't get more universal than that.
If you print this up go ahead and call me:
And here's the second one, even more impressed than the above reviewer!
Hi; long time reader, first time writer, etc, etc.
I was at the Chatsworth screening last night, but I wanted to take some time to try to process ths film before I wrote anyhing down, so I noticed some other people got to it before me. But I hope you'll let me have a say as well. I'll do my best to keep this completely spoiler-free, so maybe Neilsen will actually let me into another screening someday if I'm found out.
First off, let me say that I've been anticipating this movie since the beginning. Aronofsky has been one of my favorite directors since the late 90s, when I first saw PI and flipped out at its originality. That movie became the first DVD I ever bought, when I got my first DVD player. REQUIEM has been on my top-10 list since it was first released.
And I've followed the production stories on THE FOUNTAIN with rapt attention, trying to will the film into existence. When the crew had to pull out of Australia a few years ago, I was distraught. When Brad Pitt dropped out and it looked like all was lost, I was furious at him. And when I finally read stories from the new set, and eventually saw the incredibly teasing website, then finally watched the teaser, I almost cried with joy. Yeah, I was that wrapped up in wanting this thing to come together. It's been a long, long time since I've been this passionate about any film.
So by now I probably have a good portion of you hollering "PLANT!" and navigating away, feeling smugly satisfied with their intimate understanding of my reasons for being so passionate about this movie. I could tell you I'm exasperated with most of the film industry right now, and that the last hing on earth I'd want is to work for anyone in it, but would it really make a difference? If you've already made up your mind that you know what I'm about, please just take off now and save your time.
I want to be honest in this review, and I've honestly adored this project since I first came across it. You might also say I'm just a whore for Aronofsky, but the truth is, if anything, I overhyped this film to myself and others, to the point where it would've been hard NOT to disappoint my expectations.
But I wasn't disappointed.
In almost every way possible, THE FOUNTAIN exceeded my expectations. There were a few trouble spots, so let me get those out of the way first. My biggest complaint was that there was a fairly excessive use of slow-motion, especially in scenes that were intended as centerpieces of the plot. The scenes would've all played just fine without its use. I also felt that some of the symbolism was a little in-your-face, again, in scenes where it was important that the audience really get a point. Neither of these issues couldn't be fixed with a bit of editing.
Now that you know I don't think the film was perfect, I'm going to tell you that it was damn close. As the other reviewer said, I don't think there's ever been a film quite like this one. I was reminded at times of stories as diverse as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, HERO, the WHEEL OF TIME book series, certain Greg Bear novels, and some of Clive Barker's ambitious fantasy writing. In many ways, THE FOUNTAIN is a film that defies genres, yet it incorporates many.
It also intertwines themes diverse as Mayan mythology, Christian religion (in various forms), politics, New Age philosophy, genetic science, astrophysics, and, of course, true love. If all this sounds pretty overblown and clunky, you're right in thinking that it would be in the hands of many directors, but Aronofsky handles it with a great sense of pacing and intensity that made my jaw drop more than once. This in't a sci-fi film. It also isn't a Linklater-esque philisophy crawl. It's primarily a small, simple love story with a few epic elements punctuating the tale, a-la Yimou Zhang. And like many of Zhang's best films, it achieves artistry without being overly artsy.
I'm really a writer at heart, so it's dialogue that really makes or breaks any story for me. It's no secret by now that in the contemporary segments, Rachael Weisz's character is dying of cancer. This is introduced so tenderly and with such subtlety that the scenes between her and Hugh Jackman sound almost exactly like real life; not in the interruption-laced, largely improvised manner that's growing in popularity-the lines are definitely delivered as film dialogue, but they're written (and acted) in a way that comes across as truly genuine. Though there were a few lines that bordered on ER-style soap opera, the dialogue was handled quite delicately throughout.
My girlfriend has a degree in photography, so she's far more visually oriented than I am. She told me afterwards that she was awestruck by Matthew Libatique's lighting and composition, and was amazed at the visual metaphors that permeate nearly every scene. She recently completed a project dealing with the basic mythological themes we encounter in everyday life, so I think she had a special appreciation for the care that both Aronofsky and Libatique clearly invested in research, and in telling the story's underlying folktales so lovingly.
My final comments (I promise) are on the music. Luckily, the Kronos Quartet had finished their score, and Clint Mansell has truly outdone himself. He took everything he learned from REQUIEM, and upped the intensity and variety. I want to buy this score. It complements the visuals perfectly, and like the score for REQUIEM, it stands alone as a moving work.
After the screening, I had the opportunity to talk to Aronofsky himself, and congratulate him. He seemed really nice in person, and thanked me and my girlfriend for coming. He also asked me to tell my friends how it affected me, so I figured I'd do one better, and tell everyone who'll read this. I hope that those who haven't already decided I'm a plant might read this review and become more hopeful about this movie's chances of success, and support it. If anyone does, then Darren, you're welcome.
So there we are. At this point, you know whether or not this film sounds like someting you want to see. Many people at the screening last night walked out, presumably because they were hoping for a space adventure, or a movie with loads of sex, or even an action flick...who knows? I'd just ask that if you go to see THE FOUNTAIN, go prepared for what it is, not just what you want it to be. You won't be disappointed.
Call me Extrapolation.