The boss of TigerBot Hesh (cassielsander) wrote,
The boss of TigerBot Hesh
cassielsander

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Firm Diving Board Needed

I recently watched The Congress, a very audacious and creative film in which Robin Wright plays a version of herself who permanently sells her public image as part of a futuristic entertainment experience.

Despite all these things, I ended up disliking it. Normally, I wouldn't devote much space to criticizing a relatively obscure, well-meaning film like that but it gives me a chance to talk about why I did like some other films.

The problem with The Congress is that the set-up, which takes place in our very near future, seems completely divorced from the way things actually happen. People talk in long monologues on the same subject and to the same end. Top-level film professionals go into "only one chance" situations with no preparation or plan for what to do if things don't go exactly as expected. An actress agrees never to act again (anywhere) without once expressing that acting might be an important part of her life (apart from financial considerations). On and on. Things which seem like they could easily be addressed with no change of plot.

Take, on the other hand, Slipstream, Anthony Hopkin's written/directed/starred-in movie I loved on first viewing and subsequently put on my Desert Island movie list. Like The Congress, it draws on "real" people and prior movies to create a version of Hollywood before jumping off into weird phantasmagoria.

Unlike it, though, it always feels rooted in a specific knowledge of the movie-making world, so that even when impossible things happen they happen in the "right" way. (For instance, when the Script Supervisor is killed she bemoans the fact that Hopkins will "lose all continuity", which he does.) Whereas in Congress when Wright freezes up during a terrifying capture session, they have no other actor to read with her, no director, nothing except for a completely contrived story her agent comes up with to draw her out. Amazing visuals, terrible ideas, actors groping around trying to plug the gap: The Congress in a nutshell.

Even David Lynch's Inland Empire, which is probably even more formless than either of the others, has Congress beat in feeling that the basic facts and characters of its universe are based on something real, even if they're constantly flying off in unpredictable directions that may or may not lead anywhere. Laura Dern's central actress may be insane, but she's an insane actress, as opposed to "Robin Wright", who is more of a floating POV that things happen to and whose name is exploited endlessly for cheap emotion-by-association.

So in the year where we had surprise undeclared remakes of The Black Hole (Interstellar), The Big Lebowski (Inherent Vice) and S1m0ne, color me very surprised that The Congress is the only one of the three not to exceed the original.
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