American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I went to see "I Heart Huckabees" at the Toronto Film Festival. It was on the screen, and I was in my chair, and nothing was happening between us. There was clearly a movie being shown, but what was its purpose and why were the characters so inexplicable? I found the pressure point that is said by the master Wudang Weng Shun Kuen to increase mental alertness. Then I dashed out for a cup of coffee. Then I fell into the Yoga sutra of yatha abhimata dhyanat va, literally clearing the mind by meditating on a single object until I become tranquil. I meditated on the theater exit door.
At festivals, the moment a movie is over, everybody asks you what you thought about it. I said, "I didn't know what I thought." Then how did it make you feel? "It made me feel like seeing it again." You mean you liked it so much you want to see it twice? "No, I'm still working on seeing it the first time."
Now I have seen it twice. The movie is like an infernal machine that consumes all of the energy it generates, saving the last watt of power to turn itself off. It functions perfectly within its constraints, but it leaves the viewer out of the loop. This may be the first movie that can exist without an audience between the projector and the screen. It falls in its own forest, and hears itself. It's the kind of movie that would inspire a Charlie Kaufman screenplay about how it couldn't be made. The director and co-writer is David O. Russell, who made the brilliant "Three Kings" and the quirky "Flirting with Disaster," and now ... well, he has made this. God knows he's courageous.
I am about to commence a description. Not a plot description, as I am not sure it has a plot in a meaningful way, but an account of what transpires. Jason Schwartzman plays Albert, an environmentalist who wants to save nature, and begins by saving a large rock that is all that remains from a despoiled swamp (he reads a poem beginning, "You rock, Rock.") Albert makes a deal with Huckabees, a chain store, to underwrite his Open Space Coalition. Huckabees doesn't care about the environment, but cares deeply about seeming to care. Jason turns out to be a wild card for them, doing things like planting trees in the middle of parking lots to reclaim them for nature right then and there.