Meta and mad, ‘The Congress’ is a trip totally worth taking

By Jake Coyle, AP

“Very soon, this whole structure that we all love so much will be gone,” prophesies Danny Huston’s wide-grinning movie studio head in Ari Folman’s “The Congress.”

He’s speaking to Robin Wright, who plays a version of herself in the film. In a meeting with Wright and her perplexed agent (Harvey Keitel), Huston’s Jeff Green, the head of the wryly fictional Miramount Studios, relishes foretelling a coming doomsday for actors: a reckoning that will rid the movie business of their gross inefficiency.

All the trappings of movie stardom — “the trailers … the skipping out on PR … the coke … the sexual kinks,” he glowers, is disappearing. The industry is changing, and he couldn’t be happier to see picky actors like Wright vanish.

What he wants is to scan her, to “sample” her and turn Wright, or as he says, “this thing called Robin Wright,” into a digital avatar that the studio can control completely. She just has to sign, never act again, and she (or specifically a younger, 34-year-old computer-generated version of her) will live on in whatever movies Miramount wants.

“I need Buttercup from ‘Princess Bride,’” Green says. “I need Jenny from ‘Forrest Gump.’”

This is the brilliant, high-concept start of Folman’s follow-up to “Waltz With Bashir,” the hypnotic, Oscar-nominated, animated documentary about a (real) Israeli soldier’s nightmares of regret from a 1982 massacre of Lebanese civilians. Like that film, “The Congress” is wholly unique hallucinogenic concoction of psychological trauma and florid cartoon.