Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Freebad, where Bad is Free

As we get a late start to the week, I thought we could take some time to reflect on some bad reflections. Because in the race against time, there is only time to race. This weekend I watched the Fountain again. I really enjoy Aronofski, somtimes in spite of myself, but I tend to think that he has as unique a voice as is possible in the current state of filmmaking. So here's why you should watch the Fountain.

1. In some ways it conforms to somewhat specific tenets of story-telling, but in a more general sense, it defies story-telling convention. This is done in perhaps not a completely unique way (i.e. comparisons to Three Times, Science of Sleep, etc.), but it does defy the conventions of what American studios offer. Because this is the context in which Aronofsky was working, I am glad to see the funding of slightly better filmmaking in America. This is also probably why he had such a hard time keeping funding and had to restart a couple times.

2. There is almost no CG in the film. The first time I saw this, I did not know this. I knew Aronofsky had an aversion to CG, but I figured for all the sweet effects and background he had sold out. He had a budget and was making a sci-fi film. Why not use CG? I'll tell you why. Because your movie will be artistic instead of lame. But how, you ask, did we make the surreal space backgrounds. Micro-photography. All those amazing pals are chemical reactions on a microscopic level. How interesting, Aronofsky tells us to think, that microscopic reactions can believably be used as space-scapes. The universe on the head of a pin, and all that crap. Sheesh.

3. As you may know, I watch more tv and movies than I should. You may also know that I watch more American things than I should. Often, Erika gets sick of me saying when I watch such things, "We got it. You didn't have to feed it to us. Let us live in ambiguity for a second. If we don't understand immediately, we will survive. Maybe we will even have to think." There is no room for the need to reflect on what you have seen in American movies. They spoon-feed everything to you with fillers in between just to make sure you never get lost. This is why if a film is remotely mysterious, we think it is the enigma of the universe. Case in point, The Da Vinci Code. Before I saw it, countless people told me it is super-hard to follow if you haven't read the book? Really? Because what I saw was a mildly entertaining detective movie that left me wondering for about three seconds before resolving everything according to the rules of every other detective movie ever made. Back to the point, The Fountain lets you sit in ambiguity for awhile. In many ways, it reminded me of 2001, but this comparison may be too easy because of the space stuff and the last man nd birth from death and all that. Regardless, when I first saw 2001 as a youngster, I really enjoyed how it let me think. It let me draw conclusions. It didn't force itself onto my brain. The same is true of the Fountain.

Why do I post this here? Because most of you hate my movie tastes. You think that I'm lame and arrogant because I think film should be a medium for art far above and beyond a medium for entertainment. Well now we can have both. We can meet in the middle at the Fountain. That's why I want you to see it. Unless you are a stone, it will touch you in your heart-bones, but not with cheesy, over-the-top love stuff. It is beautiful in its subtleties. Does it make Aronofsky the greatest living director? By no means. To say so would be preposterous. But it is nice to see American directors who are able to navigate the mainstream studio garbage and produce stepping stones to true film-art for American audiences such as Jim Jarmusch or some Stanley Kubrick. Nevermind that the Fountain got a limited release and mostly only played in art-house theaters. So go see it. We can talk about it. We can draw different conclusions on its message and ending. It'll be nice. It'll show us how people see things differently. It will make us recognize the soundness of Jarmusch saying that his movies don't mean anything until people see them and that he doesn't control what his movies mean. Hurray Derrida.


esteenlage said...

i'm mostly with you, Ryan. i saw the fountain in the theater and i was very eager to see what mr. aronofsky would do with such a film. in the end i was a little disappointed though. it is one of those films that feels like there is supposed to be profound things happening, but you walk away feeling a kind of empty. i really enjoyed the visual style and give him a lot of credit for creating visual styles that are unique. as well, i respect him for trying to play with our conceptions of story structure and how things relate. the film has some really powerful moments.

i do totally agree that films should leave you with a bit of ambiguity. it much better when there is space left for the viewer to fill in some of the gaps with their own imagination. the story becomes much more personal that way. it's ok to have to think while watching a film. filmmakers should treat their audiences as if they can think for themselves a little. but in america we have trained audiences that they don't need to think much.

anyway, even though the fountain did not meet my expectations, i think it is worth watching again to draw more from it. i do feel that we need more american directors to take risks like this film and more people will catch on. you may have seen it, but i recommend the original Solaris film. it probably isn't for most people, but i discover new things in that film every time i watch it. it is one of those good sci-fi films that really isn't about sci-fi, it's just about what is important to people.

Ryan 1 said...

Yeah, I totally forgot to give original Solaris attention. What a great film. Man, that makes me want to go watch it again. Maybe I will. I think that there may not be any room for subtle sci-fi without Solaris. But there are also probably some other excellent sci-fis that predate Solaris.

What about Alphaville? That was another great sci-fi that made me think about it a ton. Perhaps that set the tone for Solaris, because Godard's influence was universal back in the day. Sometimes I wish Godard would have made more sci-fi, but I guess he kind of did with the Weekend, but that was more post-apocalyptic futurism. I don't know if those count as two different genres. Plus, who am I to tell the greatest director past present or future what to do?