American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Since not one of us knows exactly what awaits us after this life, that definition, I think, satisfies me as well as any, even though I have never tasted pelican. But other people have other notions of the sweet by and by, and in "Heaven," Diane Keaton assembles a large number of them and asks them such questions as: What is heaven? Is there sex in heaven? How to you get to heaven? How do you get to hell?
Some of the answers she receives are memorable, or funny, or moving. Most are not; most are simply opinions from random subjects who have no particular credentials - except, of course, that like all of us they will someday either be, or not be, in heaven.
But there's more to the film than a simple Q & A. Keaton also assembles old film footage showing how heaven was visualized in previous films. And she photographs her subjects in a sort of angelic limbo, as if they were in heaven's waiting room.
But heaven's real waiting room, as we all know, is Palm Springs, Calif. And "Heaven" is an idea for a movie that is not quite realized. The weakness, I think, is in Keaton's excessive attention to visual detail. She has gone to a lot of effort to create her abstract sets, her heavenly decor in which the people seem almost like exhibits. But that has given her subjects time to think about their answers, some of which seem too clever, too thought out.