Friday, November 24, 2006

Two Cents On The Fountain

I have to admit, of late there haven’t been that many films that I’ve wanted to race out to see. A few certainly piqued my interest, but ultimately, away from the computers, I’ve preferred to watch new television dramas rather than spend two hours catching a film where I pretty much know what’s going to happen.

Instead, for a change, I’d prefer something that’s different and so out there it doesn’t conform to any conventions or fade out having ticked every box and wrapped the story up with either a pat or tidy resolution. So step forward Darren Aronofsky and The Fountain.

It’s not released in the UK until mid-February, 2007, but it opens in the US today. Which meant last night, after stepping out to look at the stars, I read the reviews online.

I think everyone would agree that there are a lot of films you can either take or leave. Sure, it was okay, now get on with life. Reactions to The Fountain so far seem to be a little bit more extreme with such divided opinions. The commentators have been turning on each other with so much vitriol that I hope to God the film isn’t played to Sunni and Shia audiences.

A spiritual triptych that interweaves the stories of a 16th Century conquistador, a 21st Century research scientist, and a 26th Century cosmonaut, each on their obsessive quest for eternal life, you’ve got to congratulate Warner Brothers for putting up the $35 million budget, even if they had baulked at the original figure that went north of $60 million, back in 2004 when Brad Pitt was up for the lead, and then blew another $18 after getting cold feet a second time.

From the reviews, and the over-simplified synopsis, it looks obvious that some civilians taken along to see The Fountain by their other halves without forewarning are going to come out scratching their heads. So, no hot, sweaty bedroom action that night.

Carina Chocano, a staff writer on The LA Times, called The Fountain, “bloated and logy, and art-directed within an inch of its life.”

Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post declared it, “an earnest, magnificent wreck,” while USA Today decided that while The Fountain, “attempts to explore mystical truths and probe mythic dilemmas, it emerges as a murky saga that obfuscates rather than illuminates.” Call me perverse, but that makes me want to see it even more.

Which left The New York Times to become the flag waver for The Fountain. Providing a pretty decent interactive feature alongside the review, A.O. Scott reports “[Aronofsky] seems to be trying, with a seriousness of purpose that few American filmmakers attempt, to subvert the essentially sequential nature of film.” After which he likens the film to a story by Jorge Luis Borges, which is good enough for me.

Now that films have not just a rating but a brief description of what to expect, The New York Times review ends with:

The Fountain is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has some gory combat scenes and some sexual activity in a bathtub.

Without sounding glib, I’m sold. By the way, do they both take place at the same time? ...Just asking.

So there we go: 96 minutes of cinema that doesn’t come with compulsory spoon-feeding. Could this be the beginning of the end of Western Civilisation as we know it?

Isn’t it nice that once in a while a film comes along that leaves it to the audience to make up their own minds about what they’ve watched? Movies like this are few and far between.

I mean there’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, obviously, and Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Soderbergh’s marvellous remake of Solaris, and...... ah, you’ve got to help me out on this one people.

And let’s keep the verbal fisticuffs to a minimum. At least to begin with.


At 6:56 pm, Blogger English Dave said...

Donnie Darko?

I was going to say The Brown Bunny but I didn't like it.

At 6:59 pm, Blogger English Dave said...


Lost Highway
Eraser Head
Mulholland Falls
Blue Velvet

Bit of a pattern there.

At 7:28 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

I was out in San Francisco when Lost Highway came out. Saw it at the Embarcadero Center. Left so unclean afterwards that I had to grab a cab to the AMC Van Ness (I think it was) and see Jerry Maguire. Good old David Lynch.

Got Donnie Darko DVD free with one of the broadsheets a while back. Still haven't got around to watching it.

At 8:44 pm, Blogger English Dave said...

I liked Donnie Darko. Didn't LOVE it but liked it. Some interesting moments and good acting.


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