Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)

There will be no movie this year as polarizing as The Fountain. Actually, I can think of few filmmakers as divisive as Aronofsky himself. Ask two people about Requiem for a Dream, and you'll probably get one person telling you it's an amazing, harrowing portrait of obsession and addiction (I'm pretty much in this camp), and one telling you what a hacky, melodramatic story of lowlives it is. This film is even more so, with many critics calling the story sci-fi psychobabble, while others saying it is a beautiful story of obsessive love. I am again in the pro-Aronofsky camp, and while I do agree that the story does border on new age imagery and sloganry, I see it is a true, albeit extreme, story about the lengths one will go to for true love. Not only is the story of the film beautiful, the cinematography is literally breathtaking at times (no CGI was used, only effects over photographs, and it is amazing), especially when Rachel Weisz is concerned. Aronofsky made this film as a tribute to his love, who appears radiant and glowing onscreen more often than not, and it's not a huge jump to assume that the Hugh Jackman character is a stand-in for Aronofsky himself.

The story has three parts: one, around the 1500s, with Jackman as a conquistador Tomas and Weisz as Spanish queen Isabella; the next, central story, in modern times with tumor researcher Tommy and his tumor-suffering wife Izzy; and the third, hundreds of year in the future, with Jackman as a bald space traveller with the tree of life, haunted by Izzy's ghost, who urges him to "finish it." The central story is by far the most developed and also the most interesting and well-done. Jackman, of whom I haven't been a fan until now, is great as a man obsessed with saving his wife's life, even as she slips further and further into sickness. He's so obsessed, in fact, that he misses large parts of her life while researching. Their scenes together, especially one that takes place in the bathroom, are achingly beautiful and intensely painful, and makes the audience wonder what lengths they might go for love. The ancient Spanish story, and especially the stunning first scene, are also beautiful, with the queen wanting her conquistador to go into New Spain to find the tree of life. When the three stories come together in the last third of the film, it is devastating, but also becomes too laden with special effects and new age mantras to be effective. The last ten minutes, I was taken out of the film because of how silly I felt believing it. When critics say that the film takes on these huge ideas in uneffective ways, this is it. Because it's the last thing I was left with, it brought me down a little on the movie, but there are still immensely beautiful images, especially concering the tree of life.

The concepts of immortality and eternal love are heavy ones, and Aronofsky has definitely not made a happy film (I spent a lot of the time with tears running down my face, but then again, I'm a definite movie cryer). But taken in context with Pi and Requiem for a Dream, one can see that Aronofsky is becoming more optimistic, and maturing past these almost apocalyptic views of the world he presented before. Love is the driving force in not only these characters' lives, but, it seems, Aronofsky's as well, and the movie is a testament to its power.


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