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An aging, out-of-work actress agrees to sell her entire identity to a media conglomerate through sophisticated digital scanning. Years later, she discovers that technology has progressed even further than she anticipated.
For more about Le Congrès and the Le Congrès Blu-ray release, see Le Congrès Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 2, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Ari Folman
Writers: Stanislaw Lem, Ari Folman
Starring: Robin Wright Penn, Danny Huston, Harvey Keitel, Paul Giamatti, Jon Hamm, Kodi Smit-McPhee
» See full cast & crew
Le Congrès Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 2, 2014
Ari Folman's "The Congress" a.k.a. "Le Congres" (2013) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French label ARP Selection. The supplemental features on the disc include an original Cannes trailer for the film; audio commentary with director Ari Folman; and standard making of featurette. In English, with optional French and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The future. Robin Wright is Robin Wright, an aging actress who is having a terrible time getting work while taking care of her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). When her agent, Al (Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant), informs her that the head (Danny Huston, The Conspirator, Children of Men) of Miramount has a special proposition for her, she agrees to meet him even though her past experiences with the studio have been disappointing.
In an ultra-stylish office at Miramount, Robin is told about an incredible new machine that allows the studio to preserve its aging stars and use them in future productions without actually…using them. The machine scans the stars' physical qualities and even downloads their feelings and emotions in a giant virtual library. Controlled by skillful engineers, the machine can then instantly create any film consumers demand from the studio.
Now Miramount wants to scan Robin. Her beautiful digital replica will be used in countless future projects that will guarantee that Robin will live forever -- at least as a versatile digital file, which people will want to see on the big screen again and again. The studio is willing to give Robin a big contract -- if she allows it to scan her and agrees to never again step in front of a film camera.
Twenty years later. A much older Robin is on her way to The Congress, an industry event attended by stars and studio executives, where a giant corporation is expected to announce a groundbreaking new technology that will allow consumers to absorb their favorite stars' essences and see and experience the world around them as their idols do. In the animated zone, Robin meets Jon Hamm, a highly intelligent character who suspects that the new technology would also allow its creators to control how people think and react. During the historic announcement, however, the animated zone is rocked by riots that force Robin to quickly return to the real world and look for her seriously ill son.
Loosely based on Stanislaw Lem's novel The Futurological Congress, Ari Folman's The Congress falls somewhere between Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich and Andrew Niccol's S1M0NE. Indeed, it is a very witty and bold film that will likely impress just as many viewers as it will annoy.
The film is effectively broken into three uneven parts, each offering a glimpse at a reality in which Hollywood has essentially lost touch with reality. In the first, the studios have developed the technology to create and preserve the stars their scouts were once paid to discover, and can deliver exactly what their customers want -- without wasting money on writers, directors, editors, and the rest of the little people that that were needed to assist them. Before completely killing off the old system, however, the studios wish to scan a few of the remaining dinosaurs, like Wright.
In the second, the new reality Hollywood has created is turning against it. The powerful new technologies that have transformed the entertainment industry have also created execs with dangerous ambitions and unlimited resources and radicals who want them eliminated.
In the third, the old reality and the new reality have merged. One can choose where to live -- in the imaginary world once only movie stars could access or in the real world -- but is life still worth living?
The Congress produces some brilliant observations about the radicalization of Hollywood, our tolerance of Hollywood's unhealthy ambitions, and our obsessions with the images/stars Hollywood creates and promotes. However, because there are so many of them and because Folman lets his imagination run wild without ever trying to make it easy for the viewer to follow his thought process, viewing the film could be a seriously overwhelming experience.
Le Congrès Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ari Folman's The Congress arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French label ARP Selection.
Shot digitally, The Congress looks appropriately crisp and vibrant. The different close-ups and the larger panoramic shots also impress with terrific depth (see screencaptures #5 and 6). Colors are stable and natural looking, but there are some unique enhancements that occasionally change color balance. The animated footage looks gorgeous. Indeed, the colors are so rich that at times the visuals actually become quite overwhelming (see screencaptures #2 and 3). The live action inserts are very effectively balanced (see screencapture #15). There are absolutely no stability issues. Also, there are no serious compression or encoding anomalies to report in this review. All in all, this is a very solid technical presentation that is guaranteed to please fans of The Congress as well as viewers who are going to experience the film for the first time on Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Le Congrès Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Also included is a French Descriptive Audio DTS 2.0 track. For the record, ARP Selection have provided optional French (white) and French SDH (yellow) subtitles for the main feature. (You must use your remote control to turn off the subtitles when you select the original English audio track).
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is simply terrific. Depth and clarity are outstanding, there is an excellent range of nuanced dynamics, and surround movement is very effective. Even supposedly random sounds and noises are incredibly easy to identify. The music that is used during the animated footage also sounds quite fantastic. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow.
Le Congrès Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Le Congrès Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Congress, Ari Folman's follow-up to his Oscar nominated Waltz with Bashir, should appeal to viewers who appreciate bold and unconventional films with an attitude. It will open in select theaters across the United States next month. If it plays in your area, I urge you to consider seeing it on the big screen as many of its animated sequences are quite striking. RECOMMENDED.
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