Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Eaux D'Artifice

Now it would come as no surprise were I to state that Hollywood ain't banking on experimentation. Shall we regard the current three week reigning box-office champ, Happy Feet, as a grand example. Last year millions flocked to a tarted-up independent little docu-drama called The March of the Penguins. Warner Brothers' response? 'Let's make a penguin movie.' Not too great of a leap - to combine the digital animation methods which has won over many a heart via Dreamworks-fare with a cuddly creature that has proven to inspire great interest in a great many American people. (Not that this critic has any idea as to why that is.) I could perhaps surmise why the average American movie-goer might be trepidatious towards a more experimental narrative. My fantastic exemplar is a not-so-little film called The Fountain.

Darren Aronofsky garnered great accolades when his first two features hit the screen. Gritty was the flavor du jour and Aronofsky seemed delighted to oblidge with both Pi and Requiem for a Dream (one culminating in a DIY lobotomy, the other in amputation and a double-dong drug addled lesbian fuck fest). Both did reasonably well(surprise!) - in great part to their word of mouth appeal. Well, after scrapping a Batman prequel, somebody else at Warner Brothers thought it would be a great idea to let Aronofsky loose with 35 million dollars and (apparently) carte blanch. I can't fathom what the pitch sessions were like: 'And then he's in a giant spaceship which sorta resembles a soap bubble, petting a receptive hairy tree, nibbling on its bark and banking that if he does make it to this Mayan-named ill-fated nebula that just maybe if he passes through it his dead wife... the tree?... might be...reborn?' I think it's something like that. And that's but a third of the plot.

The rest involves a jealous inquisitor who fears that the Queen of Spain might gain greater power than God were she to obtain sap from the tree of life. To procure the sperm-like fluid, Weisz sends Conquistador Jackman. Jump to present day - Tommy diligently strives to find the cure for a brain tumor which threatens the life of his paramour, budding novelist Izzy(who is, of course, penning the prior story). And then we have the floating pod of which I've already delivered my best possible summation.

Now, I'm all for schmaltz. This intergalactic, century skipping yarn of doomed love could potentially thrive - were it to give in to its sci-fi-cum-soap-operatic tendencies. But no. We've a lesson to learn. Sadly, Aronofsky, our instructor, seems just in the process of learning said lesson. Perhaps we have come to a realization sooner than he? Smitten with his actually betrothed Rachel Weisz, he forgets his message (should he actually have one in the first place) when she graces the screen. The film is certainly commendable in its kid in a candy store attitude. 'Let's have a Mayan army! Now, let's have a levitating, nebulating Buddha! Yes, that's it, make the flowers flow from his wounds just so!'

If you, dear reader, are confused, I urge you to see the film which will leave you perhaps more perplexed with visual stimuli to back up these odd assemblages than merely reading these words on a screen. Nothing compares to Jackman guzzling bucket-full gulps of the tree of life spermatozoa and subsequently erupting like a gargantuan Easter float of foliage or the film's culminating Buddhistic attitude towards death. I'm rather pleased that the film is somewhat optimistic in an otherwise nihilist time, but I'm none too sure 'Oh, I should just die,' is a message everyone will (a) find positive and (b) ultimately empathize with.


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