Must Watch: First trailer for ‘The Congress’ is a mind-bending techno dream for Robin Wright

I thought “Waltz With Bashir” was a gorgeous film. I didn’t think it always hit the same heights dramatically that it did visually, but it was an intriguing way to give a fresh look to what is essentially a talking heads documentary.

Since then, I’ve been curious to see how filmmaker Ari Folman would follow up that picture. He decided to start with a Stanislaw Lem science-fiction novel, then adapt it loosely and use it to explore the notion of whether or not our essence is something that can be captured by a computer, much less recreated.

For years now, I’ve heard people in Los Angeles talking about the idea of scanning movie stars into computers, head to toe, as a way of allowing them to freeze themselves at a particular moment in time, using their digital model to appear in films while their physical form continues to age. We’re not at that point yet, but it’s something that people have been actively considering for a while, and the conversation raises any number of points about technology, ethics, performance, and what it is we respond to when we watch someone.

One of my favorite moments in last year’s amazing “Holy Motors” was early on, when Mr. Oscar stops by what appears to be a gigantic industrial motion capture factory. He walks into a room, puts on his mo-cap outfit, and proceeds to run through this gorgeous, strange, and eventually quite surreal performance that is part fight, part dance, part sex scene. Without any words, Leos Carax made a strong case for what effects should be used to do… create images that can exist no other way. Right now, I feel like motion capture is so young that we’re still just starting to figure out what it can do or be.

Folman’s film casts Robin Wright as an actress named Robin Wright who is given the opportunity to create a fully digital version of herself. Or become, if this trailer is to be believed, because it looks like a good portion of the film is done in ways other than conventional live-action. This is one of the films I would be making a special effort to see if I were going to be at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and I can’t wait to see what Guy Lodge and/or our own Greg Ellwood report back once it screens.

Check this out.

See what I mean? Beautiful, strange, very striking right away. And I think for actresses, this is a different question than it is for men. After all, so much value is placed on youth for women, and on the youthful appearance. As an actress ages, they see different scripts come in, and it tells you everything you need to know about how you’re seen by filmmakers.

Moving from the love interest to the mom is a transition that every actress approaches in a different way, and I’ve always though Wright was someone who looked like she made peace with aging and didn’t fight it with ridiculous and obvious “fixes.” She’s older now, and her face reflects that, and she’s stunning. Absolutely beautiful, with real character. Watching her work, there’s always such subtle stuff going on, and part of what frustrates about jumping from live-action to a simulated version of the person is that the subtle small stuff is what goes first.

Oh, and look! Danny Huston’s playing a scumbag! Imagine that!

Can’t wait to see this. Looks special.

Make sure you check back here starting this Friday for our coverage of the latest Cannes Film Festival, where “The Congress” will make its debut.