American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
If Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" is an ambitious folly, that's hardly inappropriate because the movie itself is about one of humankind's most grandiose follies, the quest for eternal life.
Aronofsky, director of the relentless "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream," dares to hurl himself, and his movie, way "out there" -- in three narrative directions at once. But unlike some other films that have divided critics this year, "The Fountain" springs from a passion to take risks, rather than from hedged bets (M. Night Shyamalan's tepid, jokey, incoherent "Lady in the Water") or stillborn multi-story conceits (the calculating "Babel"), where the various narrative threads are only tenuously connected to a core theme.
OK, if this sounds more like a defense of "The Fountain" than a straightforward review, so be it. The movie has already been damned as silly and praised as audacious at film festivals from Venice to Toronto -- and both those assessments are valid, in part because of the movie's biggest aesthetic gamble: its earnestness.
Well, death is a serious matter. And "The Fountain" isn't so much about the quest for eternal life as it is about the will to stave off death. It's one thing to fantasize about living forever; it's quite another to fight the cessation of earthly existence in the next moment, or next week, or next year. "The Fountain" is a science-fiction historical adventure-fantasy about a man's (or Man's) struggle to face the incontrovertible fact of death.