Director Ari Folman’s (Waltz With Bashir) latest film The Congress has been a long time coming. After catching people’s attention at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, the live-action/cartoon hybrid is finally set for release in the United States. Drafthouse Films is handling the domestic distribution, and they’ve released a new trailer for the surreal, long-awaited drama.
A loose adaptation of the classic Stanislaw Lem short story “The Futurological Congress,” the film follows an aging actress as she embarks on the last job she’ll ever have. Moving into a more digital age, the studios are only interested in her likeness which they can plug into any old role they like. This is their way to avoid troublesome performers who are difficult to work with, make demands, care about the quality of the movies they make, and back out of contracts. The story jumps through time, bounces from realm to realm, and switches back and forth between live action and animation.
Here’s the overly detailed official synopsis:
More than two decades after catapulting to stardom with The Princess Bride, an aging actress (Robin Wright, playing a version of herself) decides to take her final job: preserving her digital likeness for a future Hollywood. Through a deal brokered by her loyal, longtime agent (Harvey Keitel) and the head of Miramount Studios (Danny Huston), her alias will be controlled by the studio, and will star in any film they want with no restrictions. In return, she receives healthy compensation so she can care for her ailing son and her digitized character will stay forever young. Twenty years later, under the creative vision of the studio’s head animator (Jon Hamm), Wright’s digital double rises to immortal stardom. With her contract expiring, she is invited to take part in “The Congress” convention as she makes her comeback straight into the world of future fantasy cinema.
Lots of critics and publications have praised the film as gorgeous and visionary, and while it is a unique premise and an inventive approach, I recently saw the film at the Seattle International Film Festival, and I can’t say that I feel the same way about it. While it starts off strong, with one of my favorite moments of any film I’ve seen so far this year—in one long take, Wright gives you what is essentially a goddamned master’s class on reactive acting—it’s all downhill from there. I’m not a fan of the animation, it’s like Rob Zombie’s leftovers and the flatness ruins the best thing the movie has going for it, the subtlety of Wright’s acting. We’ll have a review later this summer when the film hits theaters on August 29.
The Congress also stars Harvey Keitel, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Paul Giamatti, Danny Houston, Sami Gayle, and a cartooned up Jon Hamm.