Ever since The Fountain first started screening on Wednesday morning I have been haunting the internet’s many chat rooms and message boards looking for one thing: barely legal girls to chat with on IM. And while I was at, I also kept an eye out for feedback about Darren Aronofsky’s wonderful film. I wanted to see if there was any sort of web consensus, since Rotten Tomatoes showed the critics split almost evenly down the middle.
I found that most people seemed to really like the film, and I read more than a few accounts of audiences sitting silently all the way through the end credits. That’s a great sign. I read fewer reports from people who hated the movie, although I did read about a number of walk-outs and unsatisfied theater patrons from people who loved the film. I tend to think that the film’s small box office take (but it still beat Tenacious D this weekend!) indicates that most of the people who went to see The Fountain were people predisposed to liking it.
While I was scouring the web for reactions, many came in to my mailbox, and much to my surprise, almost all of them were positive. The only negative one (I think) was from a guy who basically sent me a link to his blog where he called the movie ‘pretentious,’ which I think is the laziest and poorest possible critique. So here’s a sampling of some of the emails I have received over the past few days. If I’m feeling industrious this week, I may try to share with you some of the emails I got from my “Inconvenient E-Mail Exchange” piece this week, which definitely run the gamut from love to hate.
Alex shouts: This is Alex from FirstShowing.net. I believe I might’ve introduced myself to you a few times in LA, but I definitely have seen you quite a bit, as you make a commanding presence. Either way, we’re a "small-time" site in comparison to the incredibly powerful CHUD. I wanted to email you and let you know about a contest we’re running largely because of how much emphasis you’ve had on The Fountain. By now I think a lot of the true Aronofsky and Fountain fans have flocked to CHUD.
We run a weekly contest giving away posters and this week we’re featuring The Fountain. We have 15 of the beautiful Fountain posters to give out. I would like to ask if you could mention it there on CHUD to alert any of those Aronofsky/Fountain fans for the chance to enter and win. I really want to make sure those people are the ones who are entering and winning, as they truly deserve the poster. I know you’ve run a contest for some Fountain items before, but I didn’t see a poster, so I thought I’d send word.
The info about the contest and how to enter can be found here: http://www.firstshowing.net/2006/11/26/poster-madness-contest-07/
Thanks again for any help and keep up the great work at CHUD. I know I admire what you guys do and will continue to respect one of the best movie sites on the internet.
Devin replies: Is "commanding presence" a way of saying fat???
It was nice being at the roundtable with you guys, Alex, and I’m happy to link to your contest. We have gotten a ton of entries for our own The Fountain contest, but we only have one signed poster – fifteen posters makes for pretty good odds!
Cody shouts: I saw The Fountain this weekend, and now I feel bad.
I’ve come to trust your recommendations over the last few years, and Aronofsky is one of a few filmmakers whose works I go see with as little forewarning as possible about what I’m going to see. It’s rare that someone can deliver that kind of surprise reliably, but I roll in it, piglike, whenever I can.
This weekend, I took a date to the movies, but rashly decided to go see Pick Of Destiny instead, for the kind of opening night rowdiness that made Borat so special. Ten minutes in, I knew I’d made an awful mistake. Maybe it was funny, but I just wasn’t feeling it at all. I looked at my date and asked her if she smelled what I smelled, and we evacuated the theater for The Fountain.
This is where the thanks come in: for recommending the film and advocating for it tirelessly. Even the ads and widgets pimpling face of Chud lately haven’t dampened your earnest movie fan’s sincere push for truly great films (and torching true douchebags, i.e., the Inconvenient Lobbyist flamewar). I had no idea what I was walking into, but I am truly fucking glad to have seen it.
I’d stop short of calling it a perfect film, but its flaws for me came out of its innovations (chiefly, somewhat pretentious script-origami to artificially heighten the mystery of plain story). That said, it did much more that many great films fail at––allegorizing the plot in Izzy’s book without cheapening or trashing it, and maintaining a dreamlike center that defied literal interpretation in a way David Lynch has, arguably, failed serially to accomplish. My date, a widow, was pretty much impaled on many of the set pieces that detail Tommy’s reaction to Izzy’s death, even unto the selfishness of his attachment to her. (And no, it, somehow, didn’t ruin the date.)
This is why I feel bad. I paid for a film I should’ve rented, and stole something that I would’ve paid double for the chance to see. I felt compelled to go to the ticket booth to try to recast my vote, but it was after last show, and would you give a shit about some middle-aged guy who wanted a refund/exchange after midnight? I feel like I owe this movie something, but it’s so hard to evangelize for… other overlooked classics have hooks and giant concepts that you can sink into a friend’s head, but I find myself tonguetied when I try to figure out how to send someone to see this film. And I’ve taken up too much of your time, when all I really wanted to say was
Devin replies: You know, for whatever it’s worth, I probably wouldn’t have thought to take a date to The Fountain, either. The second time I saw it I brought my best friend, and I was worried that she wouldn’t like it and end our decade-long friendship. I wouldn’t want to place that burden on a date.
Chris shouts: I just saw the Fountain and read your review of it and was wondering if you could help explain things in the movie. My take on the movie is that the movie is set in the present and Izzi (Rachel Weisz) gave her book to Tommy to help him understand to accept death. So in the end of the movie, Tommy is able to accept Izzi’s death and he finally says good-bye. In the book he finishes it killing off Tomas because Tommy has accepted and embraced death. In the future Tom also accepts his fate which is to die and be eternal with Izzi. To beat death you have to embrace it and once Tom accepted his fate he was able to be with Izzi. That’s my take. I should see the movie again. Thanks for taking to the time to read this.
Devin replies: I won’t explain anything to you, but I will point you to this thread on our message board, where I and a number of other people talk about our interpretations of the film. I think membership is wide open now, judging by the ludicrous number of spammers this week, so join in!
Other Chris shouts: Devin,
I just wanted to Thank You for your most excellent review of the
Fountain ~ many people in the audience were very openly disappointed
the second time I saw the film this week….
the sense of Wonder when Captain Creole Says
*BEHOLD – the look in his eyes~
O_O an audience member put up his hand and said
*thats it!??? very disappointed~wanting more
the group I saw it with said things like -
oh – the Fountain is a *Drain – and
he evidenlty had issues *Finishing it~
but i read your review and the graphic novel first~
and i must say i agree with you totally..
Devin replies: It’s not a movie for everybody. That said, I think in a decade people are going to look back at the film and be sort of amazed that there were folks who hated it.
Giulianna shouts: I wanted to thank you for your review of "The Fountain." Last night, after walking out of the movie theater, I tried to think of a single better movie I’d seen in my life, and couldn’t. So you can see why I was very upset when I checked rottentomatoes.com and find scores of reviews slamming this incredible film. I’m glad to see that somebody else – even just one other person – gets it. I really hope the multitude of bad reviews don’t stop Aronofsky from making more films like it.
Anyway, that’s all.
Devin replies: It isn’t the reviews, it’s the box office. But either way, Aronofsky was prepared for this film to be less than a smash. My impression is that Aronofsky has found himself one of those rare positions in Hollywood where the studios are willing to work with him on projects that won’t be smash hits because he’s perceived as a real artist. I do hope that he makes a movie in the next couple of years that’s huge, if only because I want him to continue having the freedom to make strange and personal movies.
Drew shouts: I saw "The Fountain" today, and am pleased to say that my reactions were pretty much dead-on with yours. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to find fault with this movie, and being that it’s a film I’ve been anxiously awaiting for years, that is saying something. The imagery, the symbolism, the themes, the acting, the soundtrack, the pacing, etc, etc. I know you said you wanted to hear what people thought, and I know this email provides no new insight, or differing point of view. However, I’ve found that in the last eight hours since I’ve seen the movie, I can think of NOTHING else. All I want to do is tell people about this movie, and discuss it with someone. If that’s not the mark of a fantastic movie, I don’t know what is. Fucking brilliant. That’s pretty much where I stand on this movie. It’s a remarkable contrast to come from the depths of human depravity on Black Friday(beating one another in a Circuit City for 40% off a damn flash drive) to something so beautiful.
Anyways, I really hope we’re not in the minority, and people do come to appreciate this movie. In the end, though, it’s their loss. And finally, thanks for all of the great coverage on CHUD; you guys run a top-notch site.
Devin replies: I hate Black Friday and have, for the last few years, celebrated it as Buy Nothing Day (except for a cup of coffee. I’m just a human being)
David shouts: My compliments go out for the intelligent and enthusiastic coverage that chud has undertaken for The Fountain. I’ve been waiting for The Fountain for around 6 years now—ever since Darren Aronofsky began to casually mention that his post Requiem for a Dream project would be a "metaphysical sci-fi" film—and to avoid spoilers I skipped the coverage of the film until this morning (well, to be honest I did skim the non-spoiler superlatives in your review, which frankly turned my anticipation level to 11…and it didn’t help matters that the film was pushed back a month or that my auditorium’s projector broke down for 15 minutes during the last trailer before the film started…but I digress).
But the seemingly never ending wait was worth it. I’m in utter agreement that this is a masterpiece. One that will fall along the same lines of Blade Runner and other slow-to-rise classics, in which the mixed reviews and (most likely) poor box office of the present will mean diddly piss in the next 10 years. Although it annoys me like a crowbar hit in the spine that some of my friends (and several critics) have immediately slapped the movie as pretentious, a dismissive evaluation overused by those who seem to mix the word up with ambitious and are too lazy to shake the zombie me-no-want-to-think mindset of the typical movie viewing experience when presented with a serious, challenging work that includes all of the pieces needed to "figure out" it’s meaning, whether it’s the intended meaning of the filmmakers or the personal meaning that we pull from any film. The fact that The Fountain does have all the pieces, the fact that it carries out its themes with grace and subtlety, and the fact that it tackles a profound subject matter without ever dealing it out in superficial or course 101 terms (ala The Matrix trilogy) to me is everything that pretentious IS NOT.
And after finally reading your coverage today, I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only one who had a deeply emotional response to the film. I’m sort of weirded out by those who’ve been calling the film cold. Maybe I don’t understand because I can’t detach my life from the characters in this film. I’m engaged to a woman who suffers from a serious disease, and like the character of Tom, I brood about it constantly—yet, at the end of the day I can’t do a damn thing about it. And while I wouldn’t dare say something as maudlin and hyperbolic as "well this film has changed my life or perception on life," but neither will I don’t deny that the simple truth of the film of cherishing the moments you have together affected me greatly. Yet, despite my personal sob story that parallels the film in a minute manner, I still don’t understand the "cold" remarks by many reviewers because I believe the story between the two main characters would connect with anyone who has lost a loved one by disease whether it be child, grandparent, or whomever. But maybe that’s just me.
And just one more thing while I write this rambling, mildly incoherent email to a complete stranger…While I’m not surprised many have tagged The Fountain onto such films as 2001 and Solaris (both of which are appropriate), however, I am sort of surprised that The Seventh Seal has been left unmentioned. I believe it compliments The Fountain thematically. Not that the two films necessarily come to the same conclusions about life and death, but they definitely circle around the same notion of the acceptance of the inevitable.
Devin replies: Interesting thought on the Bergman, and a good reason for me to check the film out again for the first time in years. As for the emotion of The Fountain – I’m baffled at how some people don’t connect as well. My own father seemed to find the movie cold, which was disappointing to me.
Mason shouts: I just wanted to write you and thank you for all of "The Fountain" information that CHUD has had over the years. I’ve been talking about this movie to friends for so long. I couldn’t believe it actually finally came out!
It blew me away. I don’t recall you spending much time talking about the score of the film – but it is one of the most haunting and beautiful scores ever. Mixed with the visuals – esp. of Tom in space blew my mind.
I was kind of angry when I walked into the theater and saw it was quite packed. Don’t get me wrong – I was glad that it was getting some box office love, but I knew that most of them were there thinking it was going to be something completely different. The person behind me started snoring to the point that someone had to nudge him because he was so loud. Other people kept getting up and making so much noise. I was transfixed, though. It was so much different than I imagined and so much better.
Thanks for all the updating and keeping interest alive. More films need to be like this.
Devin replies: I love the score! I have listened to it so many times while working. It’s great – and you can buy it right now from CHUD!
Joseph shouts: For what seems like months now, I’ve been reading on your site all your praise for The Fountain. Your site’s suggestions for movies such as Shaun of the Dead, Brick, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Running Scared have all proven more than appreciated (Brick is easily one of my favorite movies in the last few years, and I’m not even a Noir fan). So, of course, I decided to follow your advice again and see The Fountain, in theaters while I still could. I don’t generally see movies in theaters, partly for the cost, partly because people are obnoxious (I think the couple behind me decided to bring an empty potato chips bag just so they could take turns crushing it into a ball). But it seemed a good thing to do on Thanksgiving.
Now, I have to say, after all your praise, I did half expect the movie to step off of the screen and die for my sins. To say you had talked up the
film a bit would be British in its level of understatement. I don’t think the film had a fair chance of living up to the expectations I had for it.
So, at the risk of appearing to "not get" the film, I will say I did feel a bit of a let down after walking out of the theater.
With that out of the way, though, let me say, I do think this movie will be high on (if not top of) my favorite movies of the year list. For one, it’s a beautiful film, with shots that I would love to hang on my wall. Obviously, the acting is superb, there was never any doubt of that. And the story was wonderfully crafted. It really doesn’t have a flaw. The academy can’t keep taking the Oscar away from Scorsese, but Aronosky deserves it this year.
The movie does not disappoint, and yet I still felt a bit disappointed when the credits started. I guess my issue is that I never had the big "Ahh" moment when the whole message of the film clicked for me. I would say fairly early on I understood the deeper philosophy of the movie and after the initial disorientation of figuring out the timelines, I never felt lost. I never needed the Ahh moment.
Of course, that isn’t a complaint against the movie, after all, there’s no rule that says a deep and complex movie has to be confusing. I suppose my disappointment comes from the fact that I went into it expecting to be confused. From everything I had read on your site, and the way that critics had been so divided on this movie, I thought there was going to be some deeply veiled meaning behind the film that I just wasn’t going to get until I had seen it a half dozen times. Granted, it is quite likely that there are aspects I didn’t grasp, but I don’t feel like I would have to see the movie again to have a complete appreciation of what I had seen. The movie works the first time around (the fact that I have knowledge of many different philosophies, both Western and Eastern, might explain why the philosophical musings of the movie never needed to be explained to me) Once again, that isn’t a complaint. I suppose my issue is that after having seen it, I wish I had gone into it not knowing anything about the film.
Obviously, I would not have seen the movie if I had not read your many pieces on the film, and yet I wish I had not read them so I could have experienced the movie completely unbiased and unknowingly. I guess that’s the Catch-22 of a film like this, most people will avoid it unless they are told exactly why it is so great before they ever even go in, effectively dampening the initial experience of the film.
All of that said, I loved the movie, and I will see it again (though probably not in theaters unless I get a group to go), and I will be recommending it to everyone I can think of who will appreciate a movie that doesn’t involve fucking a pie. And despite my slight complaint about having my expectations raised so precipitously, I have to thank you and Chud once again for leading me towards another great film.
P.S. If you bump into Aronosky again, tell him he’s a true genius.
Devin replies: I’ll pass the message on.
Obviously it’s tough to straddle the line between promoting a movie I really love and overselling it. I know that one of the problems I have is that I discover a film in an early screening before I have heard much about it and before I know what to expect, and it blows me away – but then when I try to convince people to see the film, the aspect of the unexpected is gone. I do feel like there are readers of this site like yourself who saw this film very much because of our endless shilling for it, and I am glad – but I do hope that expectations weren’t raised beyond belief. You’re right, it’s the Catch-22 of this game.