The Congress

Drafthouse Films

This weekend sees the release of The Congress, from visionary director Ari Folman. It’s the Israeli filmmaker’s first feature since his 2008 masterpiece, Waltz with Bashir, but unlike its predecessor, the new film is not a documentary. It’s in English, rather than Hebrew, and stars a handful of recognizable Hollywood actors. It is, to say the least, something of a departure. Yet it shares one very significant piece of DNA with the earlier film: it’s animated, under the leadership of the great Yoni Goodman. A masterpiece, after all, is not always the work of a single genius. Waltz with Bashir may have sprung from the mind of Folman, but the execution owes a great deal to Goodman’s ingenuity, particularly in the pioneering of Adobe Flash cutout animation. It looks like rotoscope, the tracing over live-action footage, but it’s not. This approach to design gave the film its rich style, vividly evocative of forgotten memories and blurred nightmares. Moreover, Goodman’s contribution was more than just the brilliant utilization of a technique. His stylistic vision is consistent across a number of his other accomplishments, though most of them aren’t on the grand scale of his collaborations with Folman. Let’s take a look at three examples, riveting cartoons with an almost eerie beauty.

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cong

When it comes to independent films and major releases, animation is fairly underutilized medium. There are exceptions, but for the most part, it’s generally used for kid-centric stories or to paint a lush, if slightly more adult, world. That’s why movies like A Scanner Darkly and The Congress are so special. They use animation for drama and to express ideas that go beyond a few pretty shots. Both films shouldn’t be compared past that point, but they are both emotional, visual, and mental exercises — rides that you either go along with from the start or don’t. If director Ari Folman‘s The Congress grabs you from its first frame, then expect a rich science-fiction film packed with commentary, ideas, laughs, tears, and beauty.  Speaking of beauty, Robin Wright (played conveniently by Robin Wright) has lost it, at least according to some slimy agist studio executive we meet working at Miramount. She’s now 44 years old. That usually means for actresses their careers are winding down, but after years of “bad” choices and choosing family over work, Robin isn’t the big deal that she once was. The offers aren’t coming in, at least not the offers she’s interested in — she wouldn’t ever dare to take part in a science-fiction film.

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Must See Movies of August

When it comes to major releases, this summer was somewhat junky. Before this season is even over already A Million Ways to Die in the West, Malificent, Transformers: Age of Extinction feel like distant memories. This summer wasn’t packed with offensively bad movies, but a few too many middle-of-the-road ones. Thankfully, there was enough standout major releases to not make this summer of popcorn eating a total loss. We got Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, and, a real delightful surprise last week, Lucy. We also saw a slew of great limited releases with Boyhood, Coherence, The Rover, Obvious Child, They Came Together, Snowpiercer, and more. They also helped make us forget about the more underwhelming blockbusters that were released these past three months. At first glance, summer 2014 doesn’t seem so hot, but once you look at all the good films that came out, we don’t have too much to complain about. The same goes for this August, which begins with Marvel’s most fun movie yet. Here are the 8 must see movies of August 2014.

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Robin Wright in The Congress

Stardom is a fundamentally contradictory experience for audiences. On the one hand, we can feel like we know a star intimately as a human being, despite the many roles that they play and despite the fact that they do not know us. We carry our past knowledge of the star onto each new project. And every time a star is captured by a camera, a brief record of them is made, in a moment solidified for a seeming eternity. Marlene Dietrich may be long deceased, but in revisiting any close-up fashioned from Josef von Sternberg’s films, she can feel as immediate to us as she was to the cameras eighty years ago. On the other hand, a star is always both more and less than a human being. Stars are the foundation for an industry of magazines, brand names readily available for peddling products, personalities to be mimicked, fashion icons to aspire to, and economic conditions for a film’s making and marketing. We can experience fleeting moments of intimacy with a star image, but the industry that makes stardom possible continually alienates us from a polished, selectively represented human being before us. It is through this dual capacity of stardom that stars continue to exist well after the physical lives of the people who embodied them. These inherent tensions between personhood and media are explored in great depth in Ari Folman’s new film The Congress, a film that uses the strange condition of stardom and the technological advancements of the current […]

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The Congress

Ari Folman‘s The Congress appears to play its hand quite quickly – the Cannes film’s first trailer opens with a shot of star Robin Wright being talked to by a faceless man as if she were, well, Robin Wright. Sure, this is a slightly skewed “Robin Wright” (it doesn’t seem as if this Robin starred in House of Cards, but damn if it doesn’t seem like she started her career with The Princess Bride), but it’s a version of “Robin Wright” nonetheless. And someone has a proposition for her. At first, it all seems relatively straightforward – a Hollywood studio (“Miramount,” which certainly looks like another studio that ends in “-mount”) wants to purchase the rights to Wright’s likeness and, thanks to technology, that essentially means they will scan every bit of her (not just physical, by any means) and use it to “star” in any film they see fit. It’s not a great deal, but it might be her last shot, so she takes. Obviously, it’s not all going to end well, but Folman’s film subverts our ideas of what would follow from such a deal, and it all goes totally wild, nuts, and (maybe even) amazing, as The Congress unfolds into vibrant animation and stirring score, with a possibly epic adventure thrown into the mix. It’s really one stunning trailer, and our hopes for the final film are now suitably high. Um, also? Wright might have animated sex with animated Jon Hamm (it certainly sounds like him). You’re sold now, right? Get a taste for The Congress after the break.

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