Wednesday, September 3, 2014

[Review] The Congress

The Congress is a half live action, half animated feature. Sci-fi and fantasy seep into reality, and reality seeps into sci-fi and fantasy. Robin Wright plays Robin Wright (yes you read that right).

Robin is an actress facing the dwindling of her career. A studio executive (Danny Huston) approaches her regarding a revolutionary field called "hermetically sampling". He proposes the option to "sample" her, or scan and conserve her entity into digital data, so the idea of Robin Wright's on-screen presence will endure forever, and she personally won't even have to do anything anymore. She refuses at first, but eventually gives in.

The setup is an immediate commentary on the scary possibility of "computerized performers" and the progress of technology completely journeying away from the human element. It also reflects the demand to stay young in the Hollywood world, and the drastic measures one will take to preserve their public image and stay relevant. These threads are explored further as the story evolves within this intricately sophisticated and multi-layered concept film.

During the powerfully depressing scan scene, Robin stands inside a futuristic globe of flashing lazers, demonstrating every emotion and facial expression possible, while her agent (Harvey Keitel) talks her though the process. After a 20 year flash-forward, Robin's aged self warps into fantasy drive and the film transitions to full-on acid trip animation mode--a post-postmodern society of former stars. It's all very strange and jarring, but fascinatingly creepy and utopian. Robin's goal becomes a plight to get back to the "other side" where the truth lies.

There's a lot of dreamy drift-offs, the pacing is awkward, and the structure is messy, but the ambition and uniqueness of the project is impressive. The Congress is a trippy look into an abstract future that might be too close to reality than we want.


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