Hodge-podge, thy name is The Congress. Ostensibly about an iteration of Robin Wright played by Robin Wright who sells the rights to her on-screen persona to a big Hollywood studio, it is not really about that at all. It is part animation, part live-action; part adaptation of Stanisław Lem’s 1971 sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress, part anti-Hollywood meta-movie; part electric Kool-Aid acid trip, part anti-commercialist treatise. And if all that sounds a bit much, try actually sitting through this two hour-plus film. The funny thing is: I heartily recommend the experience.
It might sweeten the deal to know this is the brainchild of Ari Folman, the writer-director of Waltz with Bashir. A 2008 animated documentary about his experience as an Israeli infantry soldier, Bashir grounded questions about the fluidity of memory and identity with the reality of the 1982 Lebanon War, and deserved the Oscar for which it only received a nomination. The Congress may take Folman’s big-picture interrogations much (much!) further afield but he anchors its fancies with the same sort of real-world stakes. In this case, those stakes are an actual female body, which, as it turns out, cuts through all kinds of blips in the time-space continuum. In this capacity, Robin Wright, who channeled an old-soulfulness even as a budding starlet, proves the perfect muse. But she is also far more than a muse, and it is this dance between her subjectivity and her objectivity – not to mention her objectification – that runs as the common thread through this new cinematic organism that both heralds and laments a new era in filmmaking. (more…)