September 5, 2006

Venice. The Fountain.

The Fountain "[R]oundly booed," as Jonathan Brown reports in the Independent, Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain has evidently been met with a brutal reception in Venice.

The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Bennett: "It has big names in Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and Ellen Burstyn; fantastical sets featuring Mayan warriors, the tree of life and a bubble space ship that travels amid the stars; and a frame of reference that draws from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There's a biblical puzzle that needs deciphering, so if Warner Bros Pictures in the US and 20th Century Fox internationally can somehow tie a Da Vinci Code reference into their marketing, they might snag a quick box office return. Otherwise, Zardoz anyone?"

Updated through 9/7.

Variety's Leslie Felperin goes so far as to fire a few retroactive shots at Pi and Requiem for a Dream before launching into this "hippy trippy space odyssey-meets-contempo-weepy-meets-conquistador caper." The Fountain "shows onscreen all the wear and tear of a personal project that has suffered from production fits and starts and reportedly has been cut down from a longer running time to a still tedious and repetitious hour and a half."

Even AICN's Moriarty might not be able to save this one, but who knows? If reporters like the Boston Herald's Stephen Schaefer, just one example among many, keep writing about the sex scene that didn't make the final cut...

Updates: Lee Marshall for Screen Daily: "[I]t's one of those works guaranteed to split audiences down the middle: anyone with an aversion to woolly pop-Buddhist philosophising or who has a well-honed sense of the ridiculous is likely to pass the point of no return and lose patience with the whole exercise well before the end.... Aronofsky has a prodigious visual imagination, and we are initially dazzled by the sheer look of the thing while trying to work out the connection between the three stories, which dip in and out of one another in a way that sometimes illuminates but more often than not frustrates."

Jeffrey Wells reminds us that he liked The Fountain when he caught it in July, calling it "the most beautiful and best-crafted cosmic head-trip movie since I don't know what. 2001: A Space Odyssey? Fight Club? The first half of Altered States?"

Update, 9/7: "Two days on from its world premiere, the film has already divided audiences: at the press screening, it was booed; at its public screening the following evening, the film was given a 10-minute-long standing ovation," notes Geoffrey Macnab in the Guardian. That second event hasn't been reported quite as widely, has it. Macnab talks with Aronofsky and Weisz: "'Requiem got slaughtered by the press,' Aronofsky cheerily recalls. 'We had a 30-minute standing ovation in Cannes and the next day Variety said I should go into therapy instead of making movies. The New York Times trashed Pi. I am totally used to it."

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Posted by dwhudson at September 5, 2006 1:42 AM


But...I wanted this movie to be awesome... :/

Posted by: Jake Brahm at September 5, 2006 3:02 AM

I too, wanted this to be the ONE!

With the sex scene deleted, I wonder what will be The Fountain's "Ass to Ass" moment?

(sadly, that was the selling point to those that took me to see, "Requiem for a Dream")

Posted by: Jerry Lentz at September 5, 2006 4:16 AM

This could be completely off, but I'm struck by similarities to the immediate reaction to Richard Kelly's Southland Tales. Fairly early in his career, a semi-cultish director toils away for years on a big sweeping vision of epic proportions... expectations mount... and when it opens at a festival in Europe, where you'd think they'd go in for this sort of thing if the director's pulled off what he meant to - it bombs.

The question is whether The Fountain will have the sort of champions Southland Tales did - not you'd wish a film such champions. Illustrious names, all, read 'em and love 'em, but they sure were quiet during those first days and weeks when the fate of Kelly's film was being sealed.

Posted by: David Hudson at September 5, 2006 5:10 AM

I'll be surprised if The Fountain finds any champions among the intelligentsia. One key difference between Aronofsky's film and Southland Tales is that the latter has a sense of humor—I myself found it almost desperately unfunny, but I can at least comprehend how others might be tickled. Like many satires, it's truly a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The Fountain is a lot more earnestly pretentious—indeed, that's pretty much its defining characteristic. That makes it less of a train wreck to my eyes (the boos are mostly a function of disappointed expectations—see also Marie Antoinette), but it also means you'd have to buy into its vision 100% in order to embrace it—it's not like Southland, where you can pick and choose the bits that work for you. It either captivates you or it doesn't. And it ain't gonna.

Posted by: md'a at September 5, 2006 6:32 AM

That's a distinction that - and I say this having seen neither film - sounds about right. So much for that ray of hope, then. Rats.

Posted by: David Hudson at September 5, 2006 7:58 AM

Well, I for one can't wait to finally see both The Fountain and Southland Tales when they air on the SciFi Channel, cause they'll look even better when sitting next to Mansquito and Alien Apocalypse!

Posted by: Jerry Lentz at September 5, 2006 8:38 AM

The Fountain bombs? that's funny considering the hype. I've been hearing of how great it is for months now, "best film of the year", etc. I saw the trailer and thought, "sure, it looks beautiful but what else is there?" it sells itself as important but it seems there was nothing in it that's important.

Hugh Jackman better hope that The Prestige does better because with the X-Men (despite the commercial success), Scoop and The Fountain being panned, he isn't batting too well!

Posted by: Amy at September 5, 2006 9:15 AM

Aronofsky has managed to convince a lot of people that he's some sort of great director, despite having absolutely no narrative abilities whatsoever, or any sense of originality for that matter. This sounds like something Vincent Ward might have cooked up in his sleep back in the late 80s.

Also, there will be no ZARDOZ bashing in here, young man!!

Posted by: BFE at September 5, 2006 9:24 AM

I for one despised Requiem, though I liked pi. Still, I've never understood the acclaim Aronofsky receives, especially when there are other better directors laboring away with comparable and more resonant visions. That reference to Vincent Ward is not far off the mark--maybe we're seeing a similar career trajectory here. I adore his early work but the later stuff bogs down into a mass/mess of self-indulgence, despite the fact that you can always understand how someone might champion it.

Posted by: nathaniel at September 5, 2006 9:44 AM

I agree with Nathaniel. I don't get why anyone considers Aronofsky a major director, other than the fact that he throws a lot of washed-out, over-processed images at the screen in rapid succession. If one is looking for some sort of uber-hip, circa-now respite from the long-take Bazinan style that dominates the festival world (and I for one am not), there are far more talented image-jockeys out there -- David Fincher, Jonas Akerlund, and Gaspar Noe in particular. Hell, I suppose you can even throw in McG.

Posted by: msic at September 5, 2006 11:24 AM

The bad luck of a Southland Tales (or to get an earlier film Brown Bunny) is that most of its defenders happens to write for places whose coverage happens after the festival is over. So the raves only starts after the bad buzz (at least among english-language cinephiles) is to cemented to disappear. It's one of the reasons that I don't get why places like Cinemascope or Film Comment doesn't set up blogs during Cannes. It's great that one or two months later they get to write that Southland Tales or Brown Bunny were very underated by the daily press and were actually among the best films on competition, but it's usually to late to save the films reputation. The antecipation for their later print coverages might be smaller, but they would be doing a favor to some of the less popular films they liked.

Posted by: Filipe at September 5, 2006 11:42 PM

If you thought the buzz was bad on this, just wait till Inland Empire hits. from what I can gather that's either going to receive an ecstatic and enraptured reception or something akin to a burning in effigy. I suspect the latter.

Posted by: nathaniel at September 5, 2006 11:57 PM

I couldn't agree more, Filipe. Of course, no one should be forced to blog - or phone home, or stop the presses or take out an ad or anything else - but at the same time, to ignore that the ways films are received have radically changed in recent years, and to further ignore that these changes can and do have an effect on the individual futures of small films, seems to me to be irresponsible on the part of some who claim to care about them.

Posted by: David Hudson at September 6, 2006 12:24 AM

"With the sex scene deleted, I wonder what will be The Fountain's "Ass to Ass" moment?"

Wormhole to wormhole

Posted by: jerrythenerdswahili at September 6, 2006 3:57 AM