Monday, October 6, 2014

The Congress
Digital Fever, reflections on The Congress.

Our culture prides itself on the advancement of technology and entertainment, but because of its unrelenting obsolete model it poses for consumers, it seems even the biggest celebrities are hanging on a thin wire. The half- animated head-trip, The Congress, explores a dichotomy of corporate media control and human consciousness. How far is a fading actress willing to go to be forever immortalized without losing her cookies along the way.

The French-Israeli sci-fi, animation, drama, romance, action, fantasy flick falls short of satisfaction and entertainment. The premise? Robin Wright plays herself and is a fickle actress that has been holding off selling the rights to a digital image of herself. Like a typical Hollywood drama storyline, she has two kids: a sassy sharp tongue teenage girl and a son who is going blind. (Dancer In The Dark anyone?) Eventually, her compassionate, yet aggressive agent who is played by a heavily make-uped Harvey Keitel, persuades her to throw her antiquated ideals out the window, and sell what would be the equivalent of her soul to Miramount (some wordplay on the movie companies Miramax and Paramount) now the biggest movie making corporation in a cartoonish futuristic world.

The first half of the film is set in a massive field right outside an airport. Wright and her two children (sans husband figure) live in the inside of an abandoned airplane hangar and its majestic high ceilings and open floor plan would leave any Brooklynite drooling over their popcorn. The film trudges along slowly and it is hard to tell where the dilemma truly lies. We see a woman going through a mid-life career crisis while struggling with the fact that her son is going permanently blind. But at its core, when she decides to revive her acting career in order to finance her son's medical treatment, it becomes more about the dehumanization of people in the movie business. However, this is not a new concept, and perhaps its saving point in the film. If you can get past the obscure animated totalitarian-like dreamscapes, and cheesy romance between John Hamm’s character and Robin Wright, you can analyze what it tries to reveal: the cutthroat, and degrading aspects of Hollywood. When the film begins its animated sequence, there is an eerie jabberwocky-like world Wright enters where everyone has been duped to believe that they live in a utopian society, when in reality they are medicated cogs in the machine, and a voice in a speaker tries to convince them otherwise. Although, there apparently exist (yet) another paradise—where ostracized celebrities, artists and common folk are living in a non-conformist, bohemian community, it is hard to be convinced that the storyline has a genuine outlook. The plot becomes rather banal, because it only grazes the negative effects of the digitalization of herself, and ends up being overshadowed by her pursuit in finding her son and getting it on with Hamm. It seems that it only perpetuates the idea that digital culture has no lasting repercussions. Nevertheless, Hollywood is not here to be authentic, and that's the point. The film weaves back and forth between an oppressive, silencing society to an acid trip-espionage-love journey between Hamm and Wright; and all the head-honchos at Miramount desire is to exploit Wright’s immortalized beautiful image in an ageless society. Wright, why can’t you just conform?!

Hollywood is a machine that will eventually take over the minds of people, and reality will be a simulacrum of what they chose to portray, if not already. Take the red pill and watch the trailer below...

~Nina G.

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