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I Have No Idea What I Just Saw: The Congress Trailer

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Trailers | May 14, 2013 | Comments ()


The-Congress-2072058.jpeg

For me the problem with anime has always been that it sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice always seems to collapse under its own delusions of visual grandeur. Because the idea that animators can make any imaginable world, with strange varieties of styles and none of the studio pressure that comes with studio budgets, seems like a perfect set up for truly amazing art.

And then a cel-shaded Leonard Nimoy is riding a zeppelin and ranting about soul magnets and I just want all the colors to stop already, and why are everybody's eyes bigger than mouths anyway?

So here's the trailer for The Congress, which is called that as a shout out to Stanislaw Lem, who wrote a story called The Futurological Congress that this film is ever so loosely based on.

Meh. Oh I think we banned the word? Then Double-Meh. There are two types of people in the world. Those who see a trailer like that and go meh, and those who gush about how amazing it is, and how visually creative it is. In most avenues of the arts I'm in the second category of people, but when it comes to animation I'm in the first. I am completely unmoved by visuals for the sake of visuals. I want story.

It's a similar problem that I have with musicals, in that in general I can't stand them. I go see the Broadway production of Les Miserables and am bored out of my mind by intermission. When interrogated by someone loving the singing about how I could not possibly be blown away, I point out that only three things have happened in the last hour, two of which were cliches and one of which was just inexplicably stupid. "But the muuuuuusic."

To my undoubtedly uncivilized and uncultured brain, these conversations are like someone telling me that Fifty Shades of Grey is great literature because the fonts are so pretty.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Vera

    Wow. Songs in musicals =/= fonts in literature. A better comparison would be comparing pretty fonts to quality Dolby Digital Sound. Fonts have no meaning. Songs do. Musicals are about mining small things (like cliche plot points, which can't exactly help being cliche given that they were written back in the 1800s and have been ripped off by about 1000 writers who came after, meaning that's a bit like calling The Twlight Zone cliche for inventing stuff that only became cliche through its successors' imitation) for all the layers and emotion and connections and metaphor and context and every silly human detail that lies within those plot points. Taking a prostitute's cynical misery after servicing her first client and giving due respect to that very honest human moment by invoking the full range of the mocking happy memories and the twisted juxtaposition of her motives and her actions and the brutal trail of events that got her to the situation she is in now and every nuance of emotion and all the tangential trains of thought passing through her mind in that one moment. Songs are acknowledgement. Songs are expression. Songs are embodiment. Songs are giving voice to those things that can't be expressed that way in the real world because people are not equipped with insta-rhyming and tune-making software, but which people sometimes wish they could express that way.

    That's why people like the songs. Not because they sound pretty. Sounding pretty is polish - a spoonful of sugar to make it go down more easily and more eagerly, like attractive actors or props that don't look like styrofoam.

    Now, maybe you can't stand that particular narrative device, which is totally fine and understandable. Maybe you think it's boring or sappy or clunky or irritating or in-your-face or hard to swallow or silly or ruins your suspension of disbelief or robs the story of other narrative devices that you'd enjoy more. But it IS a narrative device, not an aesthetic detail. It is NOT comparable to pretty fonts.

    If you don't like musicals, hey, your opinion. No reason why you need to, there are plenty of other excellent ways to tell a story than through song. But don't criticize something without first trying to understand WHY other people like it.

  • Ben

    This is being done by the guy that did Waltz with Bashir, wich has one of the most powerfull and deeply effecting ends to a movie I've ever seen.

  • eeeeee

    Yes. THANK YOU. Ari Effing Folman was not mentioned once in this article, and his past work more than proves that he's capable of delivering an awesome experience that will shred your heartsicle.

  • Mr_Zito

    This is video is not available anymore because the producers want it to be a SECRET movie that only a few people will watch.

  • Chris

    Wow. Posh Spice looks pretty good in the header picture.

  • Dragonchild

    Evidently SLW needs to be placed in front of Hayao Miyazaki's earlier works like "Nausicaa of the Wind Valley" or "Castle in the Sky". No garish visuals, but plenty of ambition in telling an engaging story. Making a movie about a kid miner's grandiose adventures with some air pirates to find a floating castle, for example, probably would've cost $300 million (if possible at all, considering it was made in the 1980s). Animation was just used to make the movie at 1% of the cost.

  • Robert

    It looks like there is a story here about literal control of the body, the Hollywood machine, and IPR law. It looks like Robin gains the ability to slip between representations of her body after selling her likeness to Hollywood and has to use it to save the boy. That's a good amount of plot to work through. I don't think it's changing styles just to change style.

    Then again, I also don't think that most anime collapses under the weight of its ambition. The crap we get here on network TV or Cartoon Network that's used to sell toys and magazines? Yes, that tends to fail miserably. The stuff that's actually written directly for the screen with a clear ending in mind and the stuff adapted because the manga is popular and critically acclaimed? That holds up. Saying it all collapses is the same argument that all horror movies are just about blood and body counts. It's a total lie, but you wouldn't know any better if you just followed what Hollywood told you was horror.

  • Yocean

    How shallow of you. You dare to judge Anime based on precious little that gets to you, not to mention outside Japan without knowing the history and the vast variety of the art form? That's like judging entire concept of wine making because you did not care for Charles Shaw. Do you even realize how much influence Anime have over American entertainment ( from Lion King to Matrix to older) and how it grew independently separate from American animation (stemming fom Comic and Manga respectively) but with respect to each other, thus allowing for creative resonance? Japanese anime has moved way beyond from its for-kids origin because its cultural influence is much far reaching and complex. It is not an epitome of style over substance aesthetic you judge it to be ( as much as I understand the weariness of such) and the animation in the film look nothing like Anime and much like American old timely cartoon. You know nothing and I am deeply offended. You ar far better than this and I implore you to get your ignorant brain out of the deprative ackhole you call your soul.

  • The Kilted Yaksman

    Ain't no rage like Nerd Rageā„¢.

  • Ben

    Ahahaha oh god, sorry but no. Like 90% of anime is shit. Esspecialy stuff today were it's all devolved into moe-blob fan wank bullshit. Most shows that are held up as paragons of anime like your Neon Gennesis, your Lains, your Ghost in the shells are overly pretentious wank fests that hide their complete lack of substance behind a veneer of trying to be deep. Every so often something actually amazing will come out of Japan like Tekkonkinkreet or Mind Games, but their usually ignored by the anime fans of the world for not being moe-blob enough or a lack of giant robots or their art style being too ugly or something.

    What you're left with is an industry that has been increasingly internalising it's goals, when it realised it could make a lot of money selling a lot of shit to a few people it started to re arange it's self to market to those people which cut out the outlier fans, and then kept doing that again and again and narrowing it's focus more and more untill there is basically nothing of any real value being put out these days.

  • yocean

    Ummm, Fuck you? i hate moe staff too and agree with most of your points (those are not my favorite anime either. you assumed wrong) and appalled at recent anime pandering to pedophile too- i worked localizing Anime for Ameican audience - but there are still many good anime still and there have been many great anime and whatever is going on now is no reason to dismiss an entire genre. Have you seem 5mm Per Seconds? Old Gundam? Good Naruto episode? Blue Dragon (which actually got a really good story despite the silliness of 12 years old girl with big tits who gotta be naked to be invisible bulshit). But it still goes to really deeper complex places than most cartoons do. And what you are saying is because you think the recent pop music is shit, the entire pop music is to be dismissed, nevermind people still love Beatles and Elvis etc etc and there are some great pop music these days as well. And in term of anime, it still does not erase the effect of greats like Tezuka, Miyazaki, Goh Nagai, Kon Satoh etc etc etc.

    Consider yourself schooled bitch.

  • Ben

    Did... did you just seriously say I should watch Naruto as an example of good anime?

    Like... really that's a serious discussion we're going to have? That doesn't even deserve a response to be honest.

  • the film is not Anime, it's actually an Israeli film (with funding, and animation from a few other countries) directed by the same guy who made Waltz with Bashir

  • I've never heard of a "deprative ackhole", but goddammit if I'm gonna let that stop me from using it liberally on Facebook...

  • russmunki

    I don't understand Steven's complaint. This is a trailer - it's not supposed to tell you much about the story. If it did, people would complain about the trailer giving too much info, and therefore not needing to see the movie. How many times have you heard people say that all the best scenes were in the trailer?

    And this trailer clearly has a story. Woman sells her image to some nasty corporation, becomes trapped in cartoon world, and has to fight her way out to return to her autistic son. It looks like a version of Tron to me.

    It could be good, or it could really suck. I can't tell from the trailer. Maybe the animation serves some overall purpose to the story. It looks like our protagonist is jumping through various genre movie tropes, like Thursday Next jumping through literary genres in the Jasper Fforde novels. I certainly won't see this movie based on this trailer alone, but I would be inclined to get more information about it.

  • Concurrence.

    I'm bound to see this - animation was part of my studies, I love it, and I like seeing animated films that might fall short just so I can come out of the theater with creative solutions on my mind. What draws me in here isn't the technical wizardry, and certainly not what little we know of the story, but the fact that Harvey Keitel and Robin Wright are in it.

  • I thought the beginning of the trailer actually had a cool concept. I could imagine that with CGI, actors will not actually need to be part of the process once they are "scanned". Why pay an actor 20 million to do a movie when you can just recycle them over and over again. Do we care if it's Brad Pitt on screen or a digital version? Real question is, would we ever know? The rest of the trailer looked like utter, self important crap. Throw enough shit against the wall and you can start to call it "art"

  • Rochelle

    It could be amazing, or it could be full of self-important hot air. I'll probably see it to make that decision myself. Beautiful visuals can't save a bad story, but they can elevate a mediocre story.

  • bleujayone

    It's like Cool World and Being John Malkovich hooked up while in rehab together and decided to have a baby at the S1m0ne Fertility Clinic....I didn't say it was a GOOD idea.

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