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Avalon 2001
Description: In a future world, young folks are increasingly becoming addicted to an illegal (and potentially deadly) war simulation minigame named Avalon. When Ash, a star player, hears of rumors that a more advanced lvl of the minigame exists somewhere, she gives up her loner methods and joins a gang of explorers. Even if she finds the gateway to the next level, will she ever be able to come back to reality?
Released: 20 Jan 2001 Director: Mamoru Oshii Writers: Kazunori Itô (screenplay) Actors: Malgorzata Foremniak, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Jerzy Gudejko, Dariusz Biskupski Genres: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Thriller
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Avalon Reviews:

There is an interesting parallel between The Matrix and Avalon. The first is heavily based on Manga/Animee style, in visual dynamics much more than in pace as well as storytelling, the latter IS an Animee film without the animations - in fact, Avalon is a VERY typical Oshii movie in each another aspect going.It's slow. It has to be. It either bores you stiff or chains you to a subtle, incredibly intense method of visual storytelling - takes you back to a time when the attention span as well as the will needed to catch a drift - to keep a thought and work on it - lived longer than a several seconds.On the surface, this film is what one should call a cyberpunk poem. For that alone it already claims a special position amongst whatever one might wish to compare it to at first glance. A chillingly dark and detailed as well as beautifully crafted ballad of a heroine seeking much more than sense between realities and illusions. She seeks the home we all desperately test to cling to in belief for lack of knowledge.As everytime in Oshii's movies, one has to be prepared to be drawn into the unsettling realm between suffocating guidelines of conduct and finished uncertainty to receive at the small grain of hope hovering so painfully close to the wheels that test to grind you.The dialogue doesn't say us much. In fact, the more wordy the explanations get, the more they deflect us from what we see and feel. That's cute much what Ash has to cope with as well to search the method to HER reality as well as illusion.To call the acting understated, slow and painfully introverted would be an understatement in itself. To call it terrible for that would be the most idiotic conclusion. Malgorzata Foremniak (Ash) is a real discovery. The intensity and sheer impact she can give to 'silence' alone makes her the ideal Oshii actress. There is no empty move, no hollow gesture, no shallow expression in her whole performance. Quite an accomplishment if one keeps in mind that Ash leads a depressingly empty, hollow as well as shallow life on the surface.It's an equally depressing fact that this wonderful Polish actress will stay in obscurity as far as the billion dollar mainstream film globe is concerned.The cinematography and lighting by Grzegorz Kedzierski is nothing short of exquisite. So is Barbara Novak's production design. Budget-wise, this is a B-Movie, but they all turned that restriction into a virtue.One last praise has to go to the composer as well as the musicians. The game track 'Avalon' alone, a grand piece for orchestra, choir and soprano, is nothing short of a masterpiece.As I said, this film is a poem. Take a quiet place, wind down from the hassle of your day and allow yourself sink into illusions which might even present the occasional glint of YOUR reality.* 10 out of 10 Schogger13


* DirectorOshii Mamuro. Known for his slow pace, attention to detail, quite complicated storylines and his moodsetting. Everytime works together with Kenji Kawai (sound) and Ito (story). Another films contain Ghost In The Shell, Patlabor 1/2/OAV/Minipato, Urutsei Yatsura:Beautiful Dreamer. Also contributed to Jin-Roh and Blood. All these are worth a peek, especially if you like Avalon. Strange tiny fact : Oshii's a total dog freak. Watch his films carefully.* StoryWell, I can be short here. Set in an alternative present/future, a woman (Ash) sets out to search a hidden lvl in a VR-game (Avalon). It may be a bit thin, but a nice setup for the main theme of the movie. Besides that, Oshii's films were never all that story-based to start with, as he pays a lot more attention to general moodsetting of his alternate realities. Oh, and for those who claim it's too confusing, test to focus a bit. After two viewings, most of it can be understood (minus a several tiny details). One warning though. The pace is as slow as ever. Oshii is one to leave you a lot of time to think about certain things that happen. Some like this, most of you probably won't.* ActingKinda difficult to judge, as the film was made in Poland, with Polish actors. Personally, I search the acting adequate. No oscar nominations here, but nice work from the leading actress and the guy that plays Murphy. It all depends on what you like. To me the charm came from the exotic language, some will probably search this a turn-off. The conversation is minimal and not so important. It's just there to deliver the facts, not to explain emotions. Comments about the coldness of Ash have nothing to do with terrible acting, but with the hero she plays (another one of Oshii's trademarks). * CharactersTypical Oshii. A cold female in the leading role. The only time she shows emotion is when she's in the vicinity of her dog / dogs in general. Besides that, she's an ice cube. Personally, I like 'em like that. The others are interesting because of their tiny quirks and oddities, not because of their background stories, emotional struggles or deeper motives. All in all, they're a memorable bunch, but only there because you can't create a film without characters.* ThemesEvery Oshii film has it's own theme. Pretty Dreamer was about the boundary between dream and reality, Patlabor 1 about the relationship between mankind and machinery and Patlabor 2 about fight in general. Avalon tries to question the boundary between reality and virtual reality, using the first-person minigame category as an ideal setup. Which globe is real, which isn't, does it now matter and is there a method to search out what's true and what isn't. Oshii poses all these questions, but doesn't deliver any answers. Which, in my humble opinion, is the greatest method to handle it. When a film does test to give you an respond (Existenz), it doesn't stimulate the viewer to think about it afterwards. So, it all depends on what you're looking for. You wish some questions to think about, this is your movie, you wish a fast storyline with cheesy moral (Existenz again), avoid.* Unique effectsAgain, the opinions here are diverse. I think it's one of the most visually impressive films I've ever seen. Everything looks absolutely gorgeous, especially when you compare the original shots with the result. But let me to stretch the term SFX a bit. This isn't The Matrix with twirly, flashy, in-your-face SFX. Instead, the first hour or so is fully reworked with a magnificent sepia-colored filter, which gives the film a 1940 postcard kinda look. Besides that, the SFX are a lot more subtle. Those which are in-your-face (like the rendered vehicles) are done nicely. I especially liked the Citadel, and although the rendering is not perfect, the designs are marvelous.* MusicOshii regular Kenji Kawai made all the songs for this film. Oshii's one of the last to realize the result a nice soundtrack has on a movie. And I don't mean finding some pop idols and putting them on a CD, but really incorporating the songs in your film for additional effect, and even working the another method around, by adjusting the photos to the sound. All the songs were written for Avalon and vary from ambient to something close to opera. Even if you don't like the film or haven't seen it yet, the soundtrack could be part of your CD/MP3 collection.* General MoodsettingWell, this is what makes the film one of the greatest there is. It requires a unique type of taste to like it though. The characters' reality is a bleak and cold one, with tiny room for emotions, yet portrayed in such a method that it still feels type of warm and cosy. It's difficult to explain but I trust it's greatest compared with the darker side of romance. The feeling you receive when you're sitting in front of your window, it's raining outside and your girlfriend just left you. It's a sort of gentle comforting sadness. He atteigns this through the music, the sepia filter, slow pace and briliant camera swoops/positions. One of the fears I had before I saw the movie, was that he wouldn't be able to capture this mood in a live action (he normally makes animated movies, which all have a certain style of their own to start with), but he did a superb job. Very special and stylish.* OverallI would like to tell this film has no similarities with The Matrix or Existenz whatsoever. Folks who expect a film like the afore mentioned will be disappointed. This is 100% Oshii. It's a bit hard to suggest to folks who don't know him and his method of working. My advise is, test to watch Ghost In The Shell first. It has an easier job holding your attention (if you like animation that is), but is still representative for his another work. Personally, I think this ranks among the five greatest films ever. It's refreshing, it's special and made with passion. Hollywood fanatics beware, others, test it out.


Avalon is a pretty movie, but not for everyone. If you mainly like action or fast-paced films you may be turned off by some of the slow scenes during the movie. Avalon has action though, and explosions galore. Some of the storyline is a tiny ridiculous and difficult to follow, but that isn't necessarily a terrible thing at all.This is the only movie I know of that was a co-production of both Japan and Poland. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, but filmed mostly in Poland and in the native Polish language. While watching this film you receive a feeling of a very special quality. It was filmed (or altered in post) to resemble an old Sepia toned film, but still with the high-resolution of today's movie standard. This adds a very bleak and depressive visual style to much of the movie. That's a nice thing, because this is not a satisfied film in the least.Avalon relies heavily on CGI throughout the movie, due to the "cyber minigame world" that the film is largely dealing with. Much of the CGI results are quite interesting to watch. You can often say they are CGI effects, but it's obvious that it's a pc dominating globe with users inside it.Another effective element to the movie was the perfect melody score by Kenji Kawai. This has to be one of the most pretty and engaging movie scores I've heard in a long time. It ranges through many various forms, even to the operatic. Very layered and complex, yet simple on the ears. Recorded with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, variety of folks played the different musical instruments in the recording of the score, according to the end credits. I would compare it in a sense to Christopher Young's otherworldly and haunting score for the first two Hellraiser films. It's a shame that the soundtrack to Avalon is currently only accessible as an expensive import CD.Even if you dislike the film, you gotta watch it once just for the nice music...it really is that good.



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