Ari Folman's THE CONGRESS
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Ari Folman’s THE CONGRESS is a feast for the eye and the imagination. On it I hereby bestow my coveted ONE OF A KIND tag though I must admit that some of the other films in that category seem now to pale in comparison with Folman’s masterpiece.
Never really having been a Robin Wright fan from her Princess Bride and Forrest Gump days, I know and respect her more for Robert Redford’s THE CONSPIRATOR and, of course, HOUSE OF CARDS. Here she plays an actress of a certain age whose career is nearly washed up. In desperation she signs a long-term contract to be “scanned” so that her digital simulacrum can keep on “acting” while her human aging self never works again.
That’s the first half of the movie that is peppered with terrific sequences acted by the likes of Harvey Keitel and Danny Huston.
Flash forward 20 years. The movie studio has morphed into a huge international pharmaceutical entertainment complex whose main product is a drug that enables users to enter a vast animated universe where they can be whoever or whatever they want. That’s where the animated Robin Wright goes in order to attend a phantasmagorical “Congress” taking place at the “Miramount Hotel” where every manner of human, robot, and machine interacts in sequences that make Toontown seem like suburbia with well tended lawns.
The movie credits Stanislaw Lem with the story but I was reminded more of Philip K Dick’s UBIK. “Surreal” is probably too tame word to apply to the last half of the movie but that’s the best I can come up with. There are flash reminiscences here of the alien environment of FANTASTIC PLANET but serious animated lunacy around Robin Wright is really what’s going on.
It’s a fun ride, simultaneously quirky, thoughtful, inventive, and occasionally touching. It’s not perfect but definitely appears to be much, much more interesting than the “Rebel Robot Robin” character her scanned self plays in the alternate universe.
Review copyright (c) 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald