Saturday, April 01, 2006

TOP 30, #29: Contact, by Robert Zemeckis

It's my great pleasure, on this April fool's day, to present you number 29th on my list: Contact.
It's no joke, although some of you will be quick to criticize this blockbuster's place among the world's finest film (that is, if anyone reads this).
After talking story with Nueve Reinas, I'd like to introduce one of the other great thing I love about movies: Escapism.
Escapism describes the power a film has to transport you somewhere else, and make you forget all of your worries. It doesn't mean there's great depth, but it does take skills to surround you so well with images and characters you forget you're seating with hundreds of strangers in the dark, and believe instead you're alone with a scientist in the depth of Universe.

Contact, directed in 1997 by Robert Zemeckis, is the story of Dr. Ellie Arroway and her quest for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Around her, friends and foes try to help her or stop her, with motivation such as love, greed, and eternal glory. Yes, contact is a pure-Hollywood movie. And as such, it has some great flows, cheesy characters and improbable twists. But it's a movie that goes all out, and that's what I love. It takes a story to its far end, doesn't care how stupid people might think it is, and focus on pleasing people it knows went to the theatre just for that: to escape. It is, in a way, the essence of science-fiction, but you don't have to be a genre-fan to love Contact. Because when Hollywood is at its best, every fiction carries the power of science fiction. The world seen through a screen is always a different world - it's just not always a better world.

I have to mention two things before concluding. First, the great cast that composes Contact, starting with one of my favorite actress: Jodie Foster. Her real-life intelligence shines through most of her on-screen roles, and her skills have never been as flagrant as here. Let's also mention three of the greatest supporting role actors: David Morse, who plays Ellie's father; William Fitchner (as Kent, the blind scientist) of recent "invasion" fame, and last but not least, Tom Skerrit - the secret son of Paul Newman and Tom Selleck, as always perfect.

Last thing: this is a movie about faith. It takes convoluted paths to tell you that you don't need a reason to believe, whether it's in God, in little green men, or in happiness.

And by the way, like the world's smartest people (Mulder, Einstein, Spielberg): I BELIEVE!


Baril said...

I never saw Contact... Speaking of Zemeckis, I hope Back To The Future made it to your list too, or I'm gonna despise your tastes even more than I already do ;).
As for escapism being the essence of science-fiction, not sure I agree... I always thought sci-fi was about describing OUR world, while pretending you're describing another world. Well, except Star Wars, which is about Wookies and Ewoks. Wookies and Ewoks don't exist in our world, right? Or if they do, then I'm a Wookie and you're an Ewok. Hmm... maybe that makes sense after all.

(Sorry about the nonsense above, but remember YOU asked me for a comment.)

Ben said...

I didn't say escapism was the essence of science-fiction, I said it was the essence of one kind of cinema, and that science fiction does it well.
Also, I agree with science fiction describing our world in a different way, but I like my metaphor too much.

And I like ewoks...