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Monday, January 28, 2008

Film: Aronofsky's "The Fountain" Gushes With Life (and Death)

I have to admire an effects laden film that has no other purpose than to explore the nature of existence itself. How in the world did Darren Aronofsky get funding for his stunningly original film The Fountain (out on DVD)? One way was by cutting back on CGI and using clever organic effects instead but the film still cost Warner Bros. upwards of $35 million, not including an estimated $20 million spent on an earlier bigger-budgeted version with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. A flop on its release in 2006, The Fountain has been accumulating a cult of admirers -- and deservedly so.

The first fifteen minutes are challenging, almost akin to the last quarter of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 -- full of dense imagery and intense sequences that the brain struggles to understand. Unlike 2001 however, the film spends the rest of its time piecing this together and eventually bringing some clarity -- often by repeating certain sequences and images in differing contexts.
A cynic would say that the film amounts to little more than a pretentious inflation of Camille (or Dying Young for the youngsters) and yes, there is that. But what an inflation!

The cast is headed by a wonderfully wounded Hugh Jackman and so Aronofsky's wife, Rachel Weisz, who is heartbreakingly beautiful and sad in a way that recalls Ingrid Bergman. We can see Jackman's love for her in Aronofsky's awestruck lensing of her eyes, her ears, her very pores.

The Fountain initially posits itself as a story about the fountain of youth, and jumps around in time and space primarily to Jackman as a conquistador to Weisz's Spanish Queen and present (or is it near-future) Dr. Jackman and his ill wife Weisz. In between we visit Jackman inside a bubble that's tucked away in a distant galaxy, bald and chewing bark from the tree of life. No, really we do. Literalists will probably have already left the theatre and its no duh why the marketing geniuses at Warners didn't know what to do with the film.

If you go with it though, The Fountain is quite a beautiful and moving film, with fine performances (Ellen Burstyn is particularly good) and a mystical life and death affirming air. In some ways its a companion to the Cohen Brother's No Country For Old Men but coming at some of the themes from a completely different angle. Where No Country posits a random universe where death is inevitable as well as unpredictable, The Fountain asks why?

The Fountain gets 4 out of 5 eternally youthful Joan Rivers'

Here's the trailer:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Noah that movie was crap! E-mail me why don't ya I live in NYC now!!! Congrats on getting married my friend!!

Jeff Wolfe