Monday, November 20, 2006

The Fountain

People ask me why I do a blog and I’ve never had a good answer…until now. If I can save even one person from going to see THE FOUNTAIN then I’ve provided a real public service. Yes, I know I’m going to take a lot of heat in the comments section but I don't care. Some things are too important and warning the population is something I just feel morally bound to do.

As I watched this quest for eternal life I wanted to kill myself.

For you Los Angeles readers, my wife said it was a 90 minute KCRW ad. In other words, artsy-fartsy, overblown, dialogue as bad and stilted as STAR WARS: EPISODE I and GLEN OR GLENDA, and making no sense whatsoever. An utter mish-mash. A complete disaster. It achieved the near impossible, it made Rachel Weisz look bad. And the writer-director, Darren Aronofsky, is her husband! She should sue for spousal abuse.

At least SHOWGIRLS had nudity. And stupifying lines like: "it must be weird, not having anybody cum on you."

Aronofsky is the Emperor’s New Genius. It’s one thing when he makes five-million dollar bizarre little art films. So what if nobody knows what the hell is going on? Everybody’s stoned. It’s the midnight show at the local revival theater, part of a double bill with PINK FLAMINGO. But a $53 million studio holiday release? What was anybody thinking? Forget that THE FOUNTAIN is not remotely commercial. Even the art crowd thinks it’s a turd. It was rejected by Cannes, the New York Film Festival, and when it showed at the Venice Film Festival it received loud angry boos – and these people think every Woody Allen movie is a masterpiece.

When directors start thinking of themselves not as storytellers but “artists” you can almost bet another FOUNTAIN will be hatched. When they want to become the next Kubrick give them a wide berth. If you hear the words “metaphysical journey”, “exploring unanswerable questions”, and “Mayan mythology” RUN!

I saw it at a screening where Aronofsky participated in a Q&A afterwards. He was asked what the theme of the movie was, and he said, “he didn’t know.” HE DIDN’T KNOW???? $53 million dollars and he didn’t know? He said he was still discovering it and that’s the cool part.

Knowing your theme is the first thing they teach you in the Beginning Screenwriting Course at the Learning Annex… for only $53 dollars.

Admirers will say if you want to be challenged by a movie see THE FOUNTAIN. I say see THE FOUNTAINHEAD.

Let the debate begin!

62 comments:

Keath said...

Saw the film and i loved it. Sorry you could not understand it. Stay with cartoons instead.

Slubgob said...

Saw the film and i loved it. Sorry you could not understand it. Stay with cartoons instead.

Hey, a Studio 60 fan!

Ken Levine said...

Keath,

Maybe I'm not deep, maybe I do have pedestrian tastes. And maybe people far smarter than I will love this movie. I'm glad for them. I wanted to like it. I just didn't... or couldn't. But you're right, I should have seen HAPPY FEET instead.

Whaledawg said...

As I watched this quest for eternal life I wanted to kill yourself.

You might want to rephrase that Ken ;)

Caroline said...

Hey! I am a Studio 60 fan but absolutely not a Darren Aronofsky fan. Hate to say it, but his oppressive self importance has poisoned every movie of his I've seen. Actually, I don't hate to say it. That's a lie. He represents everything I hate about auteur filmmaking right now. At least Sorkin is funny.

I was going to try this one and give him another shot -- thanks for saving me from myself, Ken.

"As I watched this quest for eternal life I wanted to kill yourself."

Classic, and I am sure wholly accurate.

Ken Levine said...

Thanks, Whaledawg,

Good catch. See, I am dumb. :)

Jess said...

(I just didn't... or couldn't. But you're right, I should have seen HAPPY FEET instead.)

Its right up your alley.

Ken Levine said...

I actually hear HAPPY FEET is good. I probably will see it at some point.

Dan Coyle said...

I haven't seen the movie, but there's one thing I do know: there are women worth traveling a thousand years for, but Rachel Weisz doing an American accent is surely not one of them.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, I actually read all The Fountainhead in it's entirety. It took a lot of chocolate and Jossverse episodes to bring me from the brink of suicide.

-Abbey

Dan Coyle said...

The Fountainhead is a... unique experience. For one thing, it taught me that superhero comics aren't the only place where date rape is seen as something that builds character.

Steve said...

Rachel Weisz's American accent is a hell of a lot better than Kate Winslet's, that's for damn sure.

BTW, I can't wait for The Fountain.

Anonymous said...

I saw the movie last week in New York and i enjoyed it. You have to enjoy good films to like it.

Phill said...

"Rachel Weisz's American accent is a hell of a lot better than Kate Winslet's, that's for damn sure."

I find Rachel's American accent very sexy, those who don't are gay.

Anonymous said...

This film mistakes opacity for depth at every turn.

If Keath wants to claim he understands he, he's welcome to explain it.

It's an intellectual exercise, not a story. There are, perhaps, some very moving moments buried in the stories - but they're so deeply buried that Aronofsky and his actors can't find them.

A real disappointment.

Cool visuals, though. Maybe I should drop a tab and see it again.

Scott said...

I saw the film in Canada during the Toronto film festival and i loved it. Can't wait to see it again.

1031 said...

Your review backfired, Ken. Now, because of all this debate, I have to see the movie in order to decide which side I fall on.

I hear Happy Feet is great. It bested the (greatest) Bond film (ever) at the box office, which was a bit of a surprise. Might have to take the nieces and nephews to see it next weekend.

nadia* said...

I caught The Fountain at the Toronto Film Festival, and have since been attempting to provide the same public service to anyone who will listen. The collective sigh from the audience at the end of "wow, I can't believe I just paid $20 for this" was audible.

deanareeno said...

Here's my synopsis of the film, so if you're reading this blog and don't want to be spoiled, don't read this post. I had read very little about the film before I saw it, as I wanted to experience it fresh. So from one viewing, my take:

Tommy & Izzie are married and in love. Izzy has an inoperable brain tumor that's growing and killing her. Tommy's a medical researcher. He's doing research to try and save her life, she has come to accept she will die. Before passing, she leaves him a book she has written which has no ending and asks him to finish writing it.

Izzie's book takes place in the 16th Century. Tommy's conclusion to the book takes place far into the future.

Not really that complicated.

The film jumps between the 'here & now' medical drama, Izzie's book and Tommy's final chapter, which some will consider "artsy-fartsy". Me? I dug it.

(Next on the agenda, Cliff Notes on The Prestige)

Ken, have you seen Caché? I'm curious to read what you think of it.

...and just so you don't think every movie I saw at the TIFF was a big stinker, I also liked Pan's Labyrinth & Severance.

Tom Dougherty said...

Requiem for a Dream: an after school special for adults. It turns out drugs are bad for you- who knew?

Pi- more fun than Hebrew Mathematics, but only just. People who Loooooved it when it came out?- how many of them could tell you they remembered what it was about, or have ever watched it again?

I am in no way looking forward to what looks to be a POS. Thanks for the heads-up, Mr. L. You didn't save my life, but you saved 3 hours of it, and that's a start.

Anonymous said...

I love it when people mistake incomprehensible for smart. It's "I (heart) Huckabees" all over again.

Let me just say this once: if you don't understand a freakin' thing happening on screen and the WRITER can't tell you what the movie was about, that doesn't make it smart. That makes it B-A-D.

Just like atemporal storytelling doesn't make it innovative and slow-moving doesn't make it emotionally effective.

I saw "The Fountain" a month ago. Incomprehensible, atemporal and slow-moving -- the holy trinity of pretentious bad filmmaking.

As the great George Carlin says: Crap's crap, and that's that.

New Dad Layne said...

This reminds me of something the late Gene Siskel did years ago. He disliked a film so much he told the ending of the film in his review to discourage people from wanting to see the movie. He caught a lot of heat for this. Hell, anymore, all you have to say is "boy gets girl" and you spoil the ending of half the films coming out of Hollywood.

I'm curious Ken, first, if you remember this, and second, if you condone what Gene Siskel did?

Ken Levine said...

new dad layne,

I don't remember Siskel doing that but I don't condone it. And you'll notice I didn't give away any story turns in my review. I can suggest people don't see a film but if do want to see it they deserve the opportunity to enjoy it. Anytime I post anything that might give something away I always include a SPOILER ALERT, as did one of the commenters above.

Mike said...

Kramer didn't like The Fountain either.

Racist.

The Master said...

Now let me get this straight in my mind: The Venice Film Festival, the same people who gave their Best Actor Award to Ben Affleck for HOLLYWOODLAND, booed and catcalled THE FOUNTAIN? Yow! How bad do you have to be to make people who think Ben Affleck is the Best actor hate you?
BTW Ken, I missed SHOWGIRLS - deliberately - and intend to continue missing it at least until I die, so thanks for that GREAT quote from it. I may have that embroidered on all my coats.

Meanwhile, if you want to see something that is actually good, catch FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. You don't have to drop acid to understand it, there are no dancing penguins, nobody's testicles get graphically clobberred as in a certain highly-praised recent spy movie (In defense of the ball-clobberring, it does come directly out of Ian Fleming's novel), Catherine O'Hara is in it, and after you've seen it, you'll be happy and cheerful, remembering that there ARE people who still make smart, funny entertainments for grown-ups with taste.

Anonymous said...

I saw The Fountain last week in Mew York and i loved it.

Some Guy said...

I'm waiting for the double bill of The Fountain and M. Night Shyamalan classic Lady In The Water

If it's half as self-indulgent as Requiem for a Dream I'd be looking for the nearest emergency exit by the end of the first reel. Thanks for the warning.

Clair said...

I plain on seeing it and it does look great.( A friend of mine who is a projectionist saw the film on Saturday and said it was amazing) Finally, we have an intelligent movie to see this year.

P.S. i saw " FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION" and it was not very good. That's a movie you can skip.

Anonymous said...

I saw the movie yesderday and i loved it. It had everything you can wish for and more.

Ken has no idea on what he's talking about.

Jesse Wendel said...

Haven't seen the film yet, so can't comment on the film itself.

However think Requiem for a Dream was brilliant and at least half, maybe 65% of the people who watched that couldn't stand it.

While I appreciate Ken's comments as always, we truly don't share a common ground in dramatic film. *smiles*

Thank you Ken. I'm now even more eager to go see The Fountain when it hits Seattle. Probably twice.

Eddie said...

I saw the film in Toronto and it was extraordinary. If you have a problem with good films that will make you think, stay home and watch Michel Bay films.

George said...

I saw it a few nights ago in Chicago and i thought it was pretty good. Its worth the wait.

benson said...

I love watching and reading the sociological machinations of the comments section play itself out...
There are a fair number of people who simply agree to disagree. But it's fascinating to watch the rest...

Granted Ken's dislike (ok, revulsion) for this movie was strong, but it's amazing how many felt the need to not only disagree, but to make a snide comment in return. And how many "anonymous" post there are with those. Sign your name. The blog police aren't coming to your door (And beside, Google/Blogspot already knows your IP address. The BlogPolice will be able to track you down...IF the want to)

Sign of the times? I guess. Just makes me curious when this trend began to become so prevalent. I don't think it started with the internet or did it? Perceived anonymity makes one bolder.

Willaim said...

You mean the same anonymous posts that bash the film as well?

It goes both ways, anyway i can't wait for the film to come out.

VP19 said...

I love it when people mistake incomprehensible for smart. It's "I (heart) Huckabees" all over again.

Yes, but at least "Huckabees" had a little humor (not to mention Naomi Watts in a swimsuit). This sounds like pretentious claptrap, this generation's "Last Year At Marienbad."

Zeal said...

"this generation's "Last Year At Marienbad."

Ok...? Anyway i saw the film during the summer and i enjoyed it.

RJM said...

It can't be THAT bad of a film,
at least Adam Sandler or Julia Roberts isn't in it.

Anonymous said...

I know you won't let these comments get you Ken . . . Liking and disliking is too subjective. The same comments could be elicited, with the same level of emotional commitment, discussing who does and does not like that horrible green bean casserole at Thanksgiving dinner!

Tallulah Morehead said...

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED that green bean casserole! It was my Aunt Mary's finest work, surpassing even her tuna, macaroni and chocolate surpise last year. Obviously "Anonymous" has no taste whatever, and is a big fat poopyhead. Die in hell, you God-damned bastard! If Green bean casseroles are too deep for your pea brianed tongue, maybe you should just stick to the succotash. I've got a lima bean here with your name on it, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Diane said...

Worse than Showgirls (my personal bar on bad movies - well, that and Roadhouse) says it all . . . thanks for the warning, I'll go see Casino Royale again instead

Kate said...

I loved the film and anybody who thinks that its on the same level as showgirls really in my opinion did not see the same film.

You really should stick with Cartoons.

R.A. Porter said...

"I loved the film and anybody who thinks that its on the same level as showgirls really in my opinion did not see the same film."

It's valid to have an opinion on the film - crap, genius, waste of celluloid, masterpiece - but a little less so to have an opinion about whether Ken saw the film. He saw it; he hated it.

You might question his judgment and taste, but opining on whether he saw the film? Do you suspect he walked into the wrong theater? Do you think he was victim of a conspiracy by anti-Aronofsky forces? Do you think someone replaced the reels with outtakes from Reefer Madness?

Michael Zand(former TV writer) said...

Ken, have you seen Caché? I'm curious to read what you think of it.

Ken, if you like watching hours of security cam video then turd's for you. I shit you not, that's what this pretentious French "art" film literally does.

BTW, in my humble opinion, Showgirls was a PERFECT movie. Bad can be perfect too, you know. I don't remember having that much fun at movie. Saw it at a WGA screening and the audience participation section was better than being at a midnight screening of the Rocky Horror Show.

Dan said...

The showgirls reference was stupid and it has nothing to do with the film at all.

Yes, i saw the film and i liked it.

eboydowen said...

Just a quick observation:

It's funny how some (not all, mind you) of the people who "loved" The Fountain immediately jump to ad hominem attacks -- "Stay with cartoons," "watch Michael Bay movies," "sorry you're a fucking idiot," etc. -- but don't do anything to back up/argue why they think the movie is good.

I won't draw any conclusions or make any inferences regarding this; I just think it's interesting. Reminds me a bit of politics and religion.

I'll have to see the movie before I make a decision either way. But judging from some of the film's defenders, I'd wager that even if the Emporer isn't naked, he can't be wearing much.

I like to imagine the Emporer in a corset and garter belts, personally. Does that make me gay?

L'chaim.

Anonymous said...

'I'll have to see the movie before I make a decision either way. But judging from some of the film's defenders, I'd wager that even if the Emporer isn't naked, he can't be wearing much."


Don't play victim because there are people bashing the film with out even seeing it themselves. At least those who has seen the movie could give an opinion, good or bad.

Adam said...

I worked at the NuWilshire back when "Pi" came out. We had a staff screening the night before opening, and we all agreed that it was a pretentious (though stylish) waste of celluloid. The next evening we had a sponsored showing, and I remember the lines of hipsters who had that look that said, "I know I'm not going to understand this movie. I also know I'm not going to miss out on an opportunity to tell everyone who hasn't seen it that I have, thus making me appear deep."

I was willing to give this flick a chance, but after Ken's warning and the "You OB-viously aren't intellectually equipped to appreciate this film" crowd, I think that says plenty. Better to stay home do something more meaningful and life-enriching, like waxing the cat.

deanareeno said...

Just to be clear, I wasn't recommending Caché, I had a total "WTF?" reaction after it was over. I just thought Ken's take on it would be an entertaining read, assuming he had seen it.

...and yeah, some of the back and forth about The Fountain is becoming a little Stephen Colbert-ish:

"If your argument is 'No!', then my argument is 'Yes!'"

Jennifer R said...

I used to know a guy who claimed to have beaten up on Aronofsky when they were in school. At the time I was thinking, "Dude, he's more famous than your ass, AND you're a geek. How can you go beat up on another geek?"

Now, I am thinking that perhaps he had his reasons.

But seriously: I thought from the trailer that the plot of the movie was that the 16th c queen and explorer dude DO find some thingie of immortality and manage to live on to the present time, and that sounded vaguely interesting. Sounds like the actual plot is just stupid, though.

Spencer said...

Caché is not a movie for North American audiences, and not because it's "high brow" or any of those other chattering class phrases used to implicitly denigrate popular culture and Canadian/American intelligence.

Frankly, it's not a movie for German or British audiences either. Caché is an allegory about the complex relationship between the French and Algerian people and requires a lot of pre-existing (I actually backspaced and put in a priori before I backspaced again and chastised myself for beink a pretentious dink) knowledge about the history of French society, so says the articles I read about it afterwards. Watch it again with that context and the film gets a helluva lot better.

Clark said...

"I was willing to give this flick a chance, but after Ken's warning and the "You OB-viously aren't intellectually equipped to appreciate this film" crowd, I think that says plenty. Better to stay home do something more meaningful and life-enriching, like waxing the cat."

No offense but i don't think anybody would care if you show up or not. Me, i already have my tickets to go.

R.A. Porter said...

Actually, at a budget ~$35M plus whatever marketing money is being spent, I'm guessing that WB cares a great deal whether Adam shows up.

In fact, I believe they'll be sending a car around to pick him up after work on opening day. Adam, I'd suggest not trying to run when the nice men in the unmarked white van pull up; it'll go easier that way.

Seriously, if this movie can only attract an art-house crowd, it will probably be a financial bust. If it's as good as its defenders here claim and can bridge into the mass market, that's a different story. I just don't see that as very likely. Selling things as "too smart/cool/clever for you" isn't usually an effective marketing strategy.

Quick: who plays the Mac and who plays the PC in the now defunct Apple ads? I'd wager those ads did more for John's than Justin's career.

Anonymous said...

"I'm guessing that WB cares a great deal whether Adam shows up."

No, they won't.

Adam said...

The hell they won't! You should've seen what those bastards from WB did when I threatened to stop watching "Gilmore Girls"!

Oh, and Clark? Enjoy your movie. Also, blow it out your ass.

Dixon Steele said...

And I thought CACHE was superb, and you didn't need to study up on the French/Algerian conflict to get it. Heard Ron Howard bought the remake rights (seriously). Don't miss it.

On the other hand, liked about 20 min. of Pi and thought Requium was stylish but depressing.

Aronofsky did, however, bag Rachel Weisz, so he must know something...

Anonymous said...

Where's the Altman post?

eboydowen said...

"Don't play victim because there are people bashing the film with out even seeing it themselves. At least those who has seen the movie could give an opinion, good or bad."

I was unaware that I was "play[ing] victim." Thank you for pointing that out for me, anonymous.

Apparently calling someone out for making a specious, shitty argument (or *no* argument at all) and not backing it up with anything that resembles a fact makes me a victim.

Again, people like to make ad hominem attacks when they can't come up with a convincing argument. You should know that as well as anybody, anonymous.

And again, nobody said any of the things mentioned in my previous post to me. They said them to anyone who would dare question The Fountain's unwavering brilliance. I could seriously give a shit about The Fountain or anybody's opinion.

I just find it hilarious that when someone says:

"I didn't like this particular film."

And the response from the art-house guy who has seen the movie, and "totally got it, bro" is:

"That's because you're a fucking idiot. Go watch Transformers, dumbass."

I just don't find that argument convincing, and it makes me question the validity of that person's opinion.

Is that okay, anonymous? Or am I wallowing in my own victimization?

Oh, and in a related story, if you don't vote Republican you're supporting terrorism.

James Moran said...

Listen, if you're going to try and bash a guy's intelligence and taste, don't pick a guy who wrote for MASH, Cheers, and Frasier. He didn't like a movie that you liked. Argue your case, like he did.

I enjoyed a lot of The Fountain, and had it completely figured out. Then it ended, and I realised that no, actually I had no idea what the hell just happened. I'm not stupid. I like "good" movies. I like them better when the filmmakers understand them, I'm kind of silly and fussy that way. Probably because I'm stupid and only like Michael Bay movies.

addy said...

As one of the two people on planet earth who liked "Dune" I will definantly have to see this movie. But then, I cried like a baby for "What Dreams May Come" so it's not like I'm and intellectual heavyweight.

Anonymous said...

I do not know if The Fountain is a great movie or not, but your review Ken Levine seems very similar to the initial reviews of critics for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
When 2001 first came out in theaters, several critics wrote the same things for 2001 that you have posted in your review for The Fountain. Anyone that watches science fiction films knows that 2001 is the best science fiction film of all the time, one of the best films of all time and is worthy even to to be placed as the best film of all time. I would really like to know how you feel about 2001 because if you feel the same way about 2001 that you feel for The Fountain then you are just being a very biased critic without any objectivity.

Anonymous said...

first, i would not recommend people to see this movie. it is difficult, and only some find it rewarding.

second, for me, this movie failed on many levels. it was a bit long, some of the dialog seemed trite and forced, and i was not emotionally attached to the main characters.

third, this movie had some amazing elements. the special effects and music are superb for starters. the themes and plot are deep and meaningful -- and well resoloved. if it wasn't for the problems mentioned about it was be one the best movies.

finally SPOILERS: i think it does make sense. the doctor wants to save his wife at all costs -- even at the cost of spending her last moments with her. he eventually finds the fountain, but too late. he spends hundreds of years medatating on life, and trying to end the story his wife wrote. eventually he travels (now that in 2600 you can) to the nebula of death and rebirth, where, upon reaching that location and finally understanding the importance of death (and therefore life), he is able to let go. his ending to the story reflects that seeking eternal life is not fruitful (ha!), and dies (reborn with the star, and the tree) as he meditates on how he should have spend his last days with his wife: on walk instead of conducting research.

great stuff.

Paul said...

I loved it, but I also love reading about philosophy and listening to people talk about philosophy, eternity, etc.

In other words, this was like reading about philosophy, except it was visual. I enjoyed it quite a bit. And kudos to Aronofsky for not using any CG.