Director: Ari Folman
Cast: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm
Release Date: Now Available on Blu-Ray & DVD
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 8.5/10
Disc Rating: 9/10
An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn’t consider.
‘The Congress’ tells the fictional story of actress Robin Wright (playing a version of herself in the film) who after finding stardom with ‘The Princess Bride’ and other hits so many years ago has begun aging and is now rarely working, in large part due to the fact that she now has two children to take care of who are the most important thing in the word to her. When she joins her agent to meet with one of the higher ups at the studio giant MiraMount, she assumes it’s for the offer of a new role. Soon she realizes it’s her they want, at least in a sense. The way movies are being made is changing in a drastic way and actors and actresses are becoming obsolete in the long run, now only being required for a ‘scanning’ process. Once scanned into the studios computers, the actor or actress gets a nice payday and the studio in turn now owns their digital likeness and can digitally have them appear and act (even interview) in any way they might desire without any further participation by the actual flesh and bones individual required. Reluctant to accept the deal, she finally acquiesces and signs to a twenty year contract as opposed to the standard lifetime deal. Twenty years later when the technology is unexpectedly still being utilized and bigger than ever, she must consider re-signing the contract. But in order to do so she will have to attend The Futurist Congress at a resort/hotel owned by the studio which requires entering a restricted animated only zone which brings a whole new level of (colorful) insanity and personal demons to the table for Robin.
The film is both written (adapted from the novel ‘The Futurological Congress’ by Stanislaw Lem) and directed by Ari Folman (writer and director of Waltz with Bashir) who does a superb job juggling the varying aspects of the film, handling the live action and animation sequences both beautifully. ‘The Congress’ is also hugely benefited from the numerous talented individual included in the cast, such as Robin Wright herself (portraying a version of herself), along with Harvey Keitel, Paul Giamatti, Danny Huston, Kodi Smit-McPhee, plus Jon Hamm in a voice only role and more, all of whom deliver pretty exceptional performances around the board in each of their respective roles.
‘The Congress’ is an exceptionally well done film, both gorgeous and smart, as well as quite powerful in the way it manages to represent some of the purest human emotions while simultaneously providing a glimpse at a new age that has at least partially believable connections or concepts in reality which one can’t help but imagine being potentially possible to an extent sometime down the road. The shift between the live action and animated sequences is handled exceptionally well and while it may not be for everyone, for those who can appreciate unique and slightly irregular yet truly fantastic filmmaking, I would highly recommend checking this one out. It’s a film very unlike any other you’re bound to experience this year and well worth a watch.
The Blu-Ray release of ‘The Congress’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. Just to clear up any possible confusion, the rear of the case lists the Aspect Ratio as being a 2.35:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio although this is not the case and (I’m assuming) merely a typo. Rest assured that the film was indeed shot in a 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio; therefore the Drafthouse Blu-Ray release does indeed feature the proper Aspect Ratio. That being said, the video presentation on the Blu-Ray release looks spectacular. The live action sequences and the animated sequences both look bright, detailed and just overall gorgeous in pretty much every possible way with no notable faults to be found within on my end. This is definitely a top notch high definition video presentation which is allotted a healthy bitrate and perfectly complements this visually impressive piece of filmmaking.
The Blu-Ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack which sounds pretty great as a whole. It does a wonderful job of balancing and keeping pace with the frequently tame (audio-wise) and more emotional moments, yet also having no problem jumping to full force the next moment and fully utilizing all five channels with audio effects galore, most notably during some of the animated sequences. The audio is smooth, perfectly balanced, detailed and crisp; able to handle plenty of activity throughout all of the available channels while still keeping dialogue perfectly audible at all times. This 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA track gets full marks and when paired with this fantastic high definition video presentation, really provides a whole new level of enjoyment to this incredibly fun and unique experience of a movie.
The Blu-Ray release of ‘The Congress’ may not be jam packed with bonus content, but it does include at least a couple of informative and entertaining bonus goodies. The Blu-Ray release includes a Commentary Track with writer/director Ari Folman, along with ‘Robin Wright at The Congress’ which consists of an interview with actress Robin Wright discussing her experiences from the point of meeting Ari Folman to working on the film, and a thirty second TV spot. The Blu-Ray release also includes the usual nice physical bonuses found on/in the Drafthouse Films releases, such as reversible artwork, in addition to a 16-page full color booklet that includes a note from the director, in addition to a Q & A with him and more.
*Please note that the above images are taken from the Blu-Ray and resized. They additionally will suffer quality loss as a result of .jpg compression. Larger versions of each image can be viewed by clicking on the image. All images and content included on this Blu-Ray release are the property of their respective owners.
Film Rating: 8.5/10
Disc Rating: 9/10
‘The Congress’ is now available to own on Blu-Ray & DVD from Drafthouse Films & Cinedigm.