Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Frank Review of "The Fountain" (2006)

The Short Version? Love transcending time and adversity.
What Is It? Sci-Fi Drama.
Who's In It? Hugh Jackman and Rachael Weisz.
Should I See It? Yes.

The Fountain was intended to be a $70 Million epic starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. That movie would have been lame, so I'm glad Pitt killed that incarnation of the project. Instead, it was made for half that price with Hugh Jackman and Rachael Weisz, and earned back only half that amount again. I'm sure the producers weren't thrilled, but I can't say as I mind, as I think the end result was a masterpiece. Unable to afford CGI, the visual effects relied heavily on creative lighting and angles, as well as the filming of chemical reactions, a process little used outside of science films and "head" pictures. The effect, however, is stunningly beautiful-- something clearly more alive than processed. In place of the numbing spectacle of a cast of thousands is a cast of dozens on a sound stage. At times things look a bit low-rent, but the artifice is more akin to a stage play, lending it a intimacy routinely lost amidst the hubbub of more grand productions.

The film was written as a response to "The Matrix," delving less into science-fiction than philosophy, the organic and indigenous rather than otherworldly cybernetics. Also, it is at its core a tearjerker, but there should be enough bloodshed and heart to earn a pass from men. The film takes place in three separate time periods, casting the lead actors in five roles between them. Both are outstanding in each incarnation. Hugh Jackman shows incredible range and depth, masterfully affecting changes in posture and tone to inhabit three distinct manifestations of one soul. Weisz suffers from the same English actress disease as Kate Winslet and Helena Bonham Carter, which turns their American accents into a hoarse East Coast hash spoken by no one ever. However, she's redeemed by her sensitivity and accessibility in her roles, gently but irresistibly forcing the audience to feel for her.

Clint Mansell's score was six years in the making, is ever present, and is endlessly touching. The story works on multiple levels, and allows for many interpretations. Fans of comparative religion and mythology are given much to chew on. The film received mixed reviews on release. Some people find it abrupt and pretensions. It certainly isn't for everyone, but I can't imagine anyone not finding something to love here, if only with the sound down and the closing sequence on a loop. The whole of the film won me over though, and I'm notoriously picky.

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