(EDIT: The studio really apparently doesn’t want this trailer out yet; it keeps getting pulled every time it pops up on YouTube. Since the film’s already debuted at Cannes, not sure what the thinking is there, but I’ll revisit this when there’s an official link.)
It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who knows my tastes that Ari Folman’s stunning “Waltz with Bashir” has a firm hold as one of my favorite films of the past decade. An innovative blend of animation with the traditional documentary format, “Bashir” was beautifully hallucinatory, a bleak and scathing look at society’s toleration of violence, and a boundary-pushing exploration of the medium’s potential. So Folman already had my rapt attention for his follow-up, before I saw this.
There’s so much going on here – possibly too much, even (some early reviews out of Cannes, where “The Congress” just debuted in the Director’s Fortnight sidebar, are mixed but universally respectful of the ambition). Robin Wright, playing a version of herself, agrees to have her entire body and personality scanned in order to be preserved forever as a digital actress – a scenario that actually doesn’t seem that far-fetched anymore, considering the recent leaps in motion-capture technology. The ensuing acid-trip world that Wright (or perhaps her digitized self?) encounters looks like a blend of “Waltz with Bashir” and “Yellow Submarine” or “Triplets of Belleville:” a fascinating combination that I want to see right now.
While the scanned-actor setup is entirely Folman’s own creation, the eponymous gathering in the animated half of the film is loosely based on a novel by legendary sci-fi author Stanislaw Lem – you might have heard of “Solaris” – so you can be sure there are some solid philosophical conundrums behind Wright’s reality-bending quest. I have to say that Robin Wright isn’t the first person you would think of for such a self-conscious role – but then, that unexpected match of player and part was a big factor in what makes “Being John Malkovich” so brilliant. Considering Wright’s recent resurgence (I quite liked her in an under-written part on “House of Cards”), I’m pleased to see her getting so adventurous.
Lighter fare here, certainly, but there’s just so many likable people involved here that I’ll probably give it a gamble. The ever-reliable Bill Nighy is the perfect person to ground the silly narrative conceit, and Rachel McAdams remains adorable (though what’s up with her and time travelers?). But I’m happy to see that Domnhall Gleason (son of Brendan, last seen as the best on-screen Levin ever in Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina) is venturing into leading man territory. He’s got a dorky charm perfect to guide one of Richard Curtis’ inoffensive romantic comedies.
The Kings of Summer
On the heels of last year’s “Moonrise Kingdom” (not to mention its Sundance companion “The Way, Way Back”), the adolescent escapism concept here isn’t staggeringly original: but again, the people involved seem charming enough – I mean, how can you discount anything with comedy’s reigning power couple, Nick Offerman and Megan Mulally? It seems we need at least a couple coming-of-age comedies every summer, and “Kings of Summer” landed good notices out of Sundance, so this could be a minor crossover hit (although again, I think “The Way, Way Back” and its starrier ensemble will probably steal a lot of this film’s thunder).