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In a future world, young people are increasingly becoming addicted to an illegal (and potentially deadly) battle simulation game called Avalon. When Ash, a star player, hears of rumors that a more advanced level of the game exists somewhere, she gives up her loner ways and joins a gang of explorers. Even if she finds the gateway to the next level, will she ever be able to come back to reality? Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Where Does The Heart Freeze Sooner? or: A Cybercar Named Desire
There is an interesting parallel between The Matrix and Avalon. The first is heavily based on Manga/Animee style, in visual dynamics much more than in pace as well as storytelling, the latter IS an Animee movie without the animations - in fact, Avalon is a VERY typical Oshii film in every other aspect going.
It's slow. It has to be. It either bores you stiff or chains you to a subtle, incredibly intense way of visual storytelling - takes you back to a time when the attention span as well as the will required to catch a drift - to hold a thought and work on it - lived longer than a few seconds.
On the surface, this movie is what one could call a cyberpunk poem. For that alone it already claims a unique position amongst whatever one might want to compare it to at first glance. A chillingly dark and detailed as well as beautifully crafted ballad of a heroine seeking much more than sense between realities and illusions. She seeks the home we all desperately try to cling to in belief for lack of knowledge.
As always in Oshii's movies, one has to be prepared to be drawn into the unsettling realm between suffocating rules of conduct and complete uncertainty to get at the tiny grain of hope hovering so painfully close to the wheels that try to grind you.
The dialogue doesn't tell us much. In fact, the more wordy the explanations get, the more they deflect us from what we see and feel. That's pretty much what Ash has to cope with as well to find the way to HER reality as well as illusion.
To call the acting understated, slow and painfully introverted would be an understatement in itself. To call it bad for that would be the most idiotic conclusion. Malgorzata Foremniak (Ash) is a true discovery. The intensity and sheer impact she can give to 'silence' alone makes her the ideal Oshii actress. There is no empty move, no hollow gesture, no shallow expression in her entire performance. Quite an accomplishment if one keeps in mind that Ash leads a depressingly empty, hollow as well as shallow life on the surface.
It's an equally depressing fact that this incredible Polish actress will stay in obscurity as far as the billion dollar mainstream movie world is concerned.
The cinematography and lighting by Grzegorz Kedzierski is nothing short of exquisite. So is Barbara Novak's production design. Budget-wise, this is a B-Movie, but they all turned that restriction into a virtue.
One last praise has to go to the composer as well as the musicians. The title track 'Avalon' alone, a grand piece for orchestra, choir and soprano, is nothing short of a masterpiece.
As I said, this movie is a poem. Take a quiet place, wind down from the hassle of your day and let yourself sink into illusions which might even show the occasional glint of YOUR reality.
* 10 out of 10
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