(directed by Ari Folman, 2013)
**** (out of 5)
> Yow. Unpredictable and original, this! Ari Folman is nothing if not an ambitious filmmaker, with plenty of ideas to explore.
. Here, he takes a peek into the near future, where professional actors become obsolete, with the revolution in digital scanning. Once they decide to sell out, they undergo a full digital scan, rendering them ex-actors, whose voice and appearance are now fully owned and controlled by studios, who are free to recreate them digitally, into the infinite future. It’s a sad and scary prospect: something as intricately tied to the humanities as live performance, being robbed of all humanity in order to be a marketable “product”.
. Among the first to reluctantly accept this fate is fine actress Robin Wright, (playing a fictionalized version of herself), who feels forced into the choice by urgent family matters. After tireless negotiations over how her persona can and cannot be used in her lifetime (Robin’s image will never age above 26 and will not appear in sci-fi or porno!), she surrenders to the tragic inevitability of her fate. Prodded by her longtime agent (Harvey Keitel, in fine form), Robin gives the final performance of her career under a bell jar of clicking cameras and flashing lights, as he coddles her, cajoles her, and shares devastating truths with her they had never had the courage to touch upon, to wring genuine emotion from her that can be later used to simulate emotion. It’s a great scene, with the two accomplished actors, feeding off each other’s talent impressively.
. The final section of the film projects into a nightmarish future world, where people escape the reality of common privation and mass poverty by taking drugs that place them in a beautiful cartoon world, where they can manifest themselves as the person they want to be, doing the things they like to do, and never have to face the desperation of their barren lives. It’s dreamy and nightmarish, in a sugary-sweet way that clearly masks a horrible reality- and here, the film grows even more complex, imaginative and resonant. It becomes as fascinating to watch as it had been to think about.
. This strange little gem passed on by without the public seeming to notice. Take notice. Rent it. Prepare to be fascinated!
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