Review: The Congress
Director: Ari Folman
Starring: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm (voice only), Paul Giamatti, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Danny Huston, Sami Gayle, Michael Stahl-David, Michael Landes & Sarah Shahi.
Running Time: 122 mins
Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir was an emotionally-wrought and cinematic pearl of 2008 (with an Oscar nomination to boot). In his newest feature, he has upped the ante, but has also gone a step back. It's taken him years to put this together.
Based on the cult novel by StanisÅ‚aw Lem, Robin Wright (as herself) is an unsuccessful actress who is down on her luck. Living near an airport with a child going deaf, she is desperate to take any offer given to her. An opportunity arises, but at a price. A film company offers to virtually replicate her in every way, allowing them to use her image in any film they can think of: musical, horror, porn, sci-fi (she opposed of this genre!) and more. At first reluctant, she soon caves in and begins the process...
20 years later, we see her in a virtual animated world, where her image continues being churned out. Her visit to this resort results in the total breakdown of the cartoon world in which people are revelling. With the help of Dylan (voiced by Mad Men's Jon Hamm), can she save her son and herself, or even what is left of her former self?
The Congress is a film of two halves: one live action, the other animated. The latter half is exceptional. An opening scene into the animated side is violently hallucinogenic and a marker for things to come. The live action side is pleasing (its length goes on for some time), but the other half is why this film gets bums on seats. After seeing such a lush world, you simply don't want to see the messy and depressing real world again (the cleverness of the film's message of fantasy vs. reality). Owing a lot to numerous animators, this film also shares the sci-fi themes of several other films (with a brief homage to Doctor Strangelove) and also the morality of selling oneself.
A trippy and gorgeous visual feast, peppered with a great vitality.
If you enjoyed any one of these films, then you will love The Congress:
Who Framed Framed Roger Rabbit?
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
A Scanner Darkly
V for Vendetta