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Review

Mamoru Oshii's AVALON review

Though I'm set to leave for CANNES in just over 24 Hours, there are already some Cannes films that I have already seen. How? Through magical and mysterious powers? Could be, but... the man behind this curtain doesn't tell about the performing of magic, but gives out testimonials and warnings of danger.

With AVALON, it is a testimonial. Mamoru Oshii's GHOST IN THE SHELL is my second favorite (by a hair) work of anime that I've ever seen... So when I first brought you word about his journey into creating his debut LIVE ACTION film.... Well, there was no doubt about it... I took the opportunity. After all, AICN has been tracking AVALON since its debut at the TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL back on November 9th when we first heard James Cameron's quote: "the most artistic, beautiful and stylish [film] in Science Fiction history"!

Since that moment I have fought to bring reviews and trailers and pictures, now that I've seen it... I'm completely ecstatic that I spent the energy necessary to find this film.

To start with, how accurate is Cameron's quote? Well, I still consider both BLADE RUNNER and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY to be the most in those three categories, but AVALON is a different type of film completely.

This is Science Fiction in the William Gibson style variety... The film has a very eastern and Japanese elegance to it.... a poetry to the motion and the story that is missing from the raw visceral thrills of a MATRIX.

In terms of art, it is superior to BLADE RUNNER, in terms of cool narrative... it is sluggish to most westerner thoughts. You know the problems that those that don't like GHOST IN THE SHELL had? Well, the same alleged problems are here.

The film is methodically paced, deliberately repetative and there are no answers at the end of the film, just questions. This is a film that you are supposed to carry in your mind after you see it. Discuss with friends and associates. The peeling of reality, the disappearance of self, the distancing of emotional resonance... The film questions all of this and more.

As for the cool action in the trailers... The trailers are actually quite deceptive.... there is a perception that the film is all action and violence. This is not the case. AVALON is a story about a game so popular and so addictive that people disappear into the game. They simply become more obsessed with the game than with life.... But in this future if you become good enough, not only is your habit paid for, but you can make a pretty profit playing the games for a large audience to get drunk and learn... watch... enjoy.

The effects have an elegance to them simply missing from most visual effects films. In MUMMY RETURNS, every thing is just hurled right at you.... But here.... here things move quite fast. Quite naturally, but the game continues, and she becomes intrigued by a ghost... a glitch that she has seemingly found that could lead her into an entire new level of existence. It isn't as cornball as that sounds... But I tell you what, when I saw this on the big screen, the films comes alive.... Making you want to enter into the film. To play these deadly games in fantastical settings.... even if sometimes those settings were from a period long long ago.

The decision to shoot the film in POLISH was completely dead on perfect, as a result it feels like something forbidden and opressive.

At my screening there were many left scratching their heads... but none have forgotten it. I look forward to see how the reviews from Cannes come in.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 8, 2001, 12:19 a.m. CST

    reflections

    by wrexsoul

    I just saw Avalon. There is a 30 minute sequence of nothing put panning over puddles of water outside. Yeah, we get it Mammy-chan, they are reflective.

  • May 8, 2001, 2:28 a.m. CST

    by Psyclops

    I really enjoyed 'Ghost In the Shell' and was fortunate enough to have seen it on the big screen. I know that there are people out there who just can't stand intellectual science fiction. You have no idea how much it pisses me off when I hear someone complain about movies like 'Gattaca' and 'Dark City'. I'm tired of listening to these people praise a film like 'Armageddon' when 'Dark City' was so much more deserving of that recognition! WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE HERE!!! It seems like 'The Matrix' was a peace offering from the Gods... the perfect middle ground. The 'MTV Spring Break' crowd loved it for the action (which was incredible) while the rest of us could appreciate it's attempt at a decent story. Oh well...

  • May 8, 2001, 6:11 a.m. CST

    First? Who cares - first in Poland anyway.

    by DocBrown

    This sounds great but Polish? I am living in Poland at the moment and the language is something else. It's a great language, very poetic, very hard to learn, not enough vowels. Seriously though I am looking forward to this. Anything that gets the thumbs up from the Cameron camp and is in the vein of William Gibson has got to rock. When's it out in Europe?

  • May 8, 2001, 7:43 a.m. CST

    All Hail Mamoru Oshii

    by Dan42

    I should have seen it coming, really. All his movies seem to have that signature slow pace and intellectual plot. So I'm 100% sure I'll love this movie. BTW, Harry, if Ghost in the Shell is your second favorite anime, what's the first?

  • May 8, 2001, 7:58 a.m. CST

    Hmmm......

    by evidence

    A game? An ending that leaves you with questions? Stylish visuals? Sounds like a certain Cronenberg flick that came out a few years ago..........

  • May 8, 2001, 12:27 p.m. CST

    So what about the bloody score?

    by Cassius the Evil

    C'mon, this is Kenji Kawai, mastermind behind GitS, easily one of the best anime scores ever! How the Hell was it, Harry? Was there a cool-ass choir? What?

  • May 8, 2001, 3:26 p.m. CST

    They might have to change the title for American audiences to av

    by Lenny Nero

    Just make it "Project Avalon." It may sound corny, but it's a simple solution and really doesn't take away from anything. Besides, the technological aspects of the film support this.

  • Da, ver ist movish sonn gotzj? Yjokom

  • May 9, 2001, 11:44 a.m. CST

    geek blindness

    by simian

    Sorry, but Ghost in the Shell wasnt anything other than a retardedly simple scifi plotline wrapped in some nice images and action setups. Its never been deserving of all the greatness lauded upon it. Akira had far more depth, and Ninja Scroll had far better action. Other than its visual nature, Shell offers very little intellectually and the only way I can understand its praise is that it is fanboy raving because so much was said about the film before it came out. I think its one of those times, like with Phantom Menace, that anticipation blinds one to the actual fact that the film stinks...Nothing has been said about Avalon that convinces me its a film that doesnt fall under the same syndrome.

  • May 9, 2001, 1:46 p.m. CST

    Stalker on speed?

    by rubycon

    Hmmm....I think this movie will rock. I liked Stalker and if this is a bit shorter and has some more action this will be good. Seems that they have stolen the sets, the language, the colors, and the mood from the old sci-fi classic Stalker. cool.

  • May 9, 2001, 5:21 p.m. CST

    This movie...

    by Quack

    ...u no what, this movie smells like teen spirit. No actually, I was the producer of this movie and I think I did a pretty good job. Thank you very much.

  • May 10, 2001, 11:26 a.m. CST

    Aren't the Japanese people evil?

    by Mr Glass

    That's what Pearl Harbor says! I think we should not watch this movie cuase you know those sneaky Japanese. First it's pokemon and nintendo then they'll break up the beatles and bomb some rinky dink harbor in the hawaiian islands. I trust Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer who tell us that Oil Driller's can go into space and save the universe and us sinless Americans who never commit atrocites will overcome those deceitful Japanese!

  • May 10, 2001, 10:44 p.m. CST

    Ghost in the shell sucks

    by rogerboxlightner

    i am witty...

  • May 26, 2001, 6:32 p.m. CST

    When internet forums go bad, Volume 2

    by GZ

    Internet forums are dangerous things, because they allow people (like me) to vent their opinions on things they have no clue about. If I had a dollar for every person who chimes in with Epsiode 1 and Michael Bay slams I would have enough money to fund my ever increasing drug habit to subdue the pain that these forums induce. In theory, there are only four people whoever post in forums: 1 person justifies a film's existence, another person slams that movie and "dumb fandom", the third person attacks expensive SPFX and Michael Bay and the last person just rants about 27 films in the same genre. Having said all this, I will add to the stupidity by dispensing my half-baked thoughts. Avalon does indeed look like a good movie, however I am only judging this by the trailer and by that same merit, Avalon also looks like a flawed movie. No matter what you say about the art design, you have to admit the SPFX in Avalon are just a grade above those scene in TV movies. Yes, the art design is awesome but the SPFX definitley are "budget" which seems to be a common problem with these sort of productions - I have no idea why that is though. But we all know SPFX don't make a good movie, and Avalon definitley seems to have a plot... what it is exactly I don't know because I can only speak English, Austrailian, American, Canadian and some Scottish. I've heard rumblings here and else where about the movie being boring and arguments about Westrn and Eastern themes and what not. Let's get one thing clear, boring is boring, if Avalon muses over the same point for 45 minutes with the central charactor looking at rain puddles, I'm sorry, but that's just boring and symbolism gone horribley wrong. You can't bill boring cinema to differences between Eastern and Western ideals but you can bill it too shotty film making and if this film does turn out to be the most beautiful movie about rain puddles there's no passing the blame. However, audiences are stupid and there's always a slight chance that a Fred Durst wannabe 12 yr old with ADD might stumble into the cinema thinking he's seeing Romeo Must Tonk. In which case they all should be rounded up taken to death camps where they will be forced into wood chippers ala the finale to Fargo. Despite a recent anime nerdlinger backlash, G.i.t.S. was a good film but should by no means be a measure of this movie. To do so is stupidity in the fullest and only a fool like would me do so. Now, the finale to my rant. Arguments over what movie was the true inventor of the "false reality" genre are petty and tedious. If I hear another argument or comparison over The Matrix / Dark City I will gouge my eye balls out with a moutain goat, I swear to God. Everyone has their favourite movie and what someone says or types with CAPS LOCK ON in forums isn't going to change your view so just give it a rest. See the movie and form your own thoughts, don't go preaching to those who won't listen because no matter how many times you suggest I'm a "FAGGORT SLOBBER GOAT WHO LIKES ARMEGEDONDG CAUSE YA A DUMBFACE" it won't change a thing. See movies and enjoy them.

  • May 29, 2001, 1:44 p.m. CST

    last post

    by semuta

    amen to that.