Never let it be said that Ari Folman makes commonplace films. After releasing the excellent Golden Globe-nominated animated documentary Waltz With Bashir back in 2008, Folman has busied himself by attempting to adapt Stanislaw Lem's celebrated dark comedy science-fiction novella, The Futurological Congress, for the screen. There's been very little noise made about the project in the intervening five years, other than notices about its casting, which starts with Robin Wright and ends with Paul Giamatti.
Yesterday, however, the first trailer for Folman's new film - titled The Congress - popped up online, and it's a mind-bending, meta delight that defies easy summarizing. Watch it above and read on for more on the film.
In The Congress, Robin Wright plays herself, or a version of herself, who desperately needs a payout to help care for her disabled son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). To that end, she agrees to let a studio body scan her to create a digital actress in her likeness in exchange for a large sum of money, but at the cost of ownership over her very image. There may be more to the film than that, judging by the (slightly NSFW) interactions between animated versions of Jon Hamm and Wright that take place toward the end of the clip, but those are the plot essentials in a nutshell.
Folman's employing a blend of live-action and animation this time around, giving parts of the footage that signature look achieved in Waltz With Bashir. However, apart from aesthetics the two movies couldn't be more different. Whereas Waltz chronicles the very real barbarisms that took place in the Lebanon War, The Congress appears to explore matters of artistic identity while commenting on the modern usage of digital scans and motion-capture in cinema. Admittedly, those are real issues, too, but there's still a divide between the pursuits Folman followed in 2008 and those he's interested in here, which also include a healthy bit of allusion - note the Doctor Strange Love nods, not to mention the use of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young."
Curiously, The Congress reads like an adaptation of Lem's original text in name only. The Futurological Congress focuses on Ijon Tichy, the hero of many of Lem's books, as he attends the congressional hearing of the title and winds up falling into a psychoactive drug-induced coma before waking up years later in a future world where people take hallucinogens routinely - so much so that their hallucinations have replaced reality. Try saying that five times fast.
If The Congress itself defies easy description, then The Futurological Congress is even more difficult to boil down to its basics, but it's clear that Folman is taking Lem's premise and shaping it into a narrative that's all his own. That's exciting, and the results thus far look promising (and weird enough that you may feel like you're tripping out when you watch it).
Keep an eye on the festivities at Cannes this year - the trailer comes to us one day in advance of the festival's commencement, so expect to see reactions to The Congress' premiere shortly.
In the meantime the film has only a French release date of July 3rd, 2013, but hopefully Folman's picture - which also features the talents of Harvey Keitel and Danny Huston - gets snatched up for US distribution at Cannes. What do you think, Screen Ranters? Does The Congress look like a welcome head-trip?
We'll provide more information on The Congress' US theatrical run as it becomes available.