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JackHalfAPrayer Is Confused By THE FOUNTAIN!!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. And that’s not me being snotty as a guy who likes the film, saying, “You didn’t get it, dude,” either. This guy says in his review that the film just plain confused him. That’s totally valid. I know what I think the film means, and I’ve talked to several people with different but equally solid interpretations. To me, that’s a really great sign of how rich a film is. Let’s see what this guy thought of it overall:

First time writer in with a preview of The Fountain. This is coming from a pretty big Aronofsky fan, I have a signed Requiem poster hanging above my workstation. I wouldn't bear his children or anything, but we need every brave, imaginative auteur we can get. I caught a preview screening at NYC's IFC joint in the west village. And who knew? Aronofsky was there to open it up. He appeared only as a kind of surprise (read: corporate favor) to WIRED magazine, who sponsored the screening as the opener of their NextFest. It was also mentioned that there'll be a large spread in the November WIRED getting intimate with Darren and his work on The Fountain as it spanned six years, so keep your eyes open for that. I feel doubly privileged as I saw Darren open Requiem in times square in 2001 (hence the poster.) Just like then, he seems to be a genuinely nice and open guy. But this time there was no Q&A after the film. And by god I wish there would have been. In short, The Fountain confused the hell out of me. I walked in with expectations and they were shattered in the first twenty minutes. This is not the film I expected. It's without a doubt the most potent story Aronofsky has tried to tackle, and told in a scattered timeline. You all know by now, three time periods, three stories, one throughline: the Mayans protect the tree of life, the fountain of youth, the key to eternal life. It's in Guatemala by the way, so get your tickets. Beyond that? Which stories are really happening? How literal are these events and stories? What has occurred by the conclusion? Beats the everliving fuck out of me! See what I did there? Everliving... Eh, piss off. The Conquistador bits are my favorite story. It has the best production design, the most at stake, the best bits of action. And there I do mean bits, as they're few and slim. The Inquisition was done frighteningly well - for the two scenes it gets. Next, the present day moments grated on me as melodrama. I understand loss and grief, but something about the sheer degree of drama had me oversaturated by the third or fourth major scene. A lot of this was soundstage work, and felt like it. And then there's the future sequences. Man oh man. What the fuck is up with this crazy bald guy? Sorry, I understand he's mad with lost love and countless years of travel- but that's not really up on screen, is it? I just have to accept it. I mean, what's on screen is about twenty scenes of a very bald, tortured Hugh Jackman talking to himself in a literal bubble and hallucinating about the past, hugging a tree and yes, eventually tonguing it sensually. Seriously. That said, the film is heavy on performance, almost like intimate stagecraft. I have never seen this much crying in a film. Heavy on the tears, all the time. Sometimes its moving, other times it falls flat on its face. The usual Aronofsky pals are in the supporting cast, along with some new tertiary fare. Rachael Weiss is... convincing. Ellen Burstyn is radiating in an odd but effective secondary role. Hugh Jackman is amazing, though by the end I'm tired of seeing his despair. The music doesn't help, either. I thought the score was two fists-full of muck. This is the film where Aronofsky should have split ways with Mansell and tried something new with his scoring. I know as a director he seems loyal to his collaborators and I loved Clint Mansell's work with Kronos on Requiem. This stuff just felt all over the place- choppy themes, cliche violins, hollow through-lines, bad cues, heartstrings heartstrings heartstrings. Maybe not bad music in itself, and Mogwai brought new things to the table, but it was certainly out of place and took me out of the moment more often than not. Sound design was awesome, cinematography was mostly amazing, visual FX were spiffy for the low budget. But the story (aka : what's really important) felt incomplete, despite all its dramatic and temporal wandering. So these three stories are revealed in a pattern repetition. This pattern builds well, keeps the pace moving, and remains comprehensible until all three stories build to a climax. A confusing, vexing, immediately unsatisfying climax. I left wondering first and foremost what the hell I just saw, and second just how much of that was actually oldschool rubber and optical FX. There were a lot of digital and 3-D credits and it looked like a good amount of digital work. But do I recommend seeing this in theaters? Yes! Buh? Because I feel like I just walked out of this generation's bastard-child 2001. A puzzle to be solved! My friend and I went over it the whole subway home and we're still going back and forth now. It resonated. Am I going to see it again in November? Yes. It's not the best movie of the year like I'd hoped, but it's certainly the best post-movie discussion of the year. Pity he couldn't knock this one out of the park. Call me Jackhalfaprayer
Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 29, 2006, 6:42 a.m. CST

    Like the look of this

    by King Sweyn Forkbeard

    If only Jackman could garner the Box Office that his talent deserves.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 6:45 a.m. CST

    Fuck I wanted this to be brilliant

    by IndustryKiller!

    sounds like an interesting failure though so thats what Ill go into the hteatre expecting and maybe just maybe I'll be all the more enthralled when its brilliant.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 7:35 a.m. CST

    Thank You...

    by Karl Childers

    for a review that actually gets to the point and doesn't go through a tirade of your flight to the preview and/or taking your dad to the doctor on the way.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 8:15 a.m. CST

    MAN!!

    by richier123

    I still have hope forthis movie though. I'm a huge Solaris fan, but I think it's mostly due to the score. I love movies that have amazing music and not too much dialogue. Hearing that the score isn't very good is a real killer, but I'm hangin' in there.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 8:21 a.m. CST

    This seems like a reasonable review

    by JohnGalt06

    Probably the reaction most people will have, given everything else I've read. But Moriarty, is it true that Jackman really tongues the tree of life? Because if it is, I may start wishing MST3K was still on the air...

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 10:23 a.m. CST

    Aronofsky has gone and made a chick flick

    by Garbageman33

    From the overwrought performances to the soaring string accompaniments, this turd is basically "Love, Actually" with a bigger FX budget.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 10:23 a.m. CST

    You were not put on this Earth to "get it", Mr. Burton

    by Bones

    Hehe. My own Subject line made me laugh. But seriously--Just because you don't get something, doesn't mean it isn't brilliant. The great thing about 2001 and to a far lesser degree Solaris (both versions)is that you are left with as many questions as answers. I, for one, am tired of everything being spoon fed to us. Will this movie be great or a totally mess of half-realized ideas? I dunno--but I am going to be there when it opens. At least it is not being called "pedestrian" like Danny Boyle's "Sunshine"...

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 11:01 a.m. CST

    So in other words, this is a boring suckfest?

    by Trazadone

    Thanks for the head's up.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 11:16 a.m. CST

    This review

    by dtpena

    is the kind that I like, good and honest, talking about the experience of seeing the film rather than telling the story or comparing budgets. A thousand points for you.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 11:33 a.m. CST

    Best review on AICN

    by potvsktl

    That I've ever read.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 11:59 a.m. CST

    No, the best review ever on AICN was...

    by JohnGalt06

    Vern's review of the CHAOS DVD. That review educated and, perhaps, saved lives.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 12:20 p.m. CST

    IT'S NOT FOR EVERYONE

    by the beef

    I saw it last night at Fantastic Fest. I couldn't have asked for anything better. It's everything that every other film these days isn't. It'll draw a lot of comparisons to 2001 because it's less, in my opinion, a plot driven story and more of an experience. Take from it what you will, but I guarantee that whether for better or for worse you may not like it, but you won't easily ever forget it.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 1 p.m. CST

    I thought this was being referred to a science fiction?

    by BootstheMonkey

    I thought people were referring to this as science fiction. Everything I have read so far--not science fiction!

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 1:17 p.m. CST

    Given the New Crobuzon/Mieville reference...

    by Mostholy

    Jack Half-a-Prayer is not a man easily confused. So, if he says it's confusing, alas, it probably is.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 1:44 p.m. CST

    Confusing?

    by Ripper1

    I'm not sure if confusing is a bad thing or not. Nothing wrong with thinking a little every once and a while.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 4:35 p.m. CST

    Ambiguity is fine, but...

    by Novaman5000

    absolutely incoherent crap is inexcusable. And no, I don't have to be "spoon-fed", but just because a story makes sense doesn't mean they're shoving it down our throats. There are good things to be said about a story that is a cohesive whole when the lights come back up. It doesn't make you a weak filmmaker if you actually choose an ending for your film. That being said I'm looking foward to this. As for 2001, I liked it but didn't love it. And yes, I do "get" it. I just felt that it was anti-climactic and ultimately was let down by the ending.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 4:44 p.m. CST

    Do the comics flesh it out?

    by Larry of Arabia

    I thought there was a comic companion to the film. Is it out yet?

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 5:30 p.m. CST

    I never trust a reviewer

    by smackfu

    who dismisses a film because he couldn't understand it, OR complains about lack of action. Some of the best movies I've ever seen took about 2-3 viewings before I fully 'got it', but I didn't dismiss the film in the interim, I was compelled by the fact that it compelled me and challenged me, and I find when you actually *invest* in these type of films they pay off greatly. Not enough action indeed. I had the same problem with Citizen Kane.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 6:39 p.m. CST

    heres what happened in the end (SPOILERS)

    by s0nicdeathmonkey

    as i posted once before... the future is real. Jackman takes the monkey's medicine and it expands his mind. then, he takes the peace of land where Izzi was buried (after a few years) and flies into space with it. the tree IS her, because he planted the tree on top of her grave and so she was furtilizer for it. also, HE DOES FINISH THE BOOK. that story is resolved, albeit in a surreal way. see, jackman plays a scientist, not a writer. as a result, the story ends in a way that is totally bizzare. of course, all of this is infered. you have to THINK about it. it's not a paint by numbers movie.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 7:13 p.m. CST

    The Fountain comic or GN

    by dtpena

    It's just great, I've read it about 4 times and always find something new in the story, the art, the character relationships, dialog that slipped the first time, etc. I just hope the movie is as good as the comic in terms of re-viewing value.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 8:27 p.m. CST

    Movies should make you think

    by deadlegend

    That's the point of art. Movies are art. We should all know this. Art should make you step back from your normal day to day life and ponder an interesting idea. It's fun. If you don't think it's fun, then it's obvious you don't read books, or care about science and history, or coonspiracy theories, or fantasy stories, or the bible, etc. That's the point of being alive, for shits sake, to experience something. If you just want action and a simple, one-track storyline, then quality films aren't for you.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 9:39 p.m. CST

    Even the bad reviews make me want to see this

    by readingwriter

    I love it when a movie comes out that risks falling on its face. This thing could be 2001 or Zardoz, Walkabout or Rapa Nui, Solaris (Tarkovsky's) or (Solaris?--nah, too easy, plus I liked Soderberg's) Gerry.

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 11:32 p.m. CST

    original

    by Turd Furgeson

    This movie sounds like on of the only unique and original movies out there this year. I'm not seeing it because of the director or stars but because it sounds thought provoking and original... Origianl? What a unique concept in Hollywood.... I can't wait to see this and will be there on opening weekend. Good or bad, we have to support origainal fimmaking!!!!

  • Sept. 30, 2006, 4:18 p.m. CST

    When did confusing mean bad?

    by gride9000

    OK, I can not argue about the melodrama. Straight up! That is a problem. Syrup like than needs Jet li's flapjack dialogue and we got breakfast. Dear Jackhalfaprayer, The fact that you are let down by a lack of literal closure, is charming. Jean Luc Goddard considered this problem of closure, metaphor and analyzing a directors intention in a Tom Minle 1962 interview (read this). To paraphrase a little, he explains how people see his films and expect them to be about something. Films don't have to be about anything. Documentaries are sometimes only observational. Goddard planted this idea in garden of cinematic exploration, that a filmmaker can blurr the lines between theater and documentary. To just show what happens can be misinterpreted as bad or sloppy film making. Understanding is not necessary There is nothing significant about the color of flowers on the table during the big break up scene. He also claimed later in the interview that Hitchcock would never put something in the movie that people could understand. He said it, I don't know if it's true, but I like the sound of it. Kubrick did not plan for Alex to sing "singing in the rain". It was the only tune Malcolm McDowell knew start to finish. Goddard was big on avoiding the "what did that symbolize" question. I can relate, have it symbolize what ever you want. 0nicdeathmonkey is so rapped up in smugly dissecting the vague 3rd act in question. I experienced similar critical discourse from David Lynch fans. If you can explain his daily Internet weather reports, or dissect lost highway, good for you. I accuse both 0nicdeathmonkey and Jackhalfaprayer of the same mistake. The film conveys images, you interpreted those images, and you thoughts were altered. Explore that, relish every sensation and thought. Let each others opinion flourish, because not even Aronofsky himself knows exactly what all that shit means, that I promise.