AVALON (2001) Directed by Mamoru Oshii CYBERPUNK
In a bleak future world, Ash is addicted to „AVALON“. Like many others, every day she dives into the virtual reality of this potentially deadly and illegal game, since the real life out there is boring and harsh at the same time. She is one of the best, she doesn`t give up, til the last enemy is defeated.There are rumors of the ultimate Special Class A level.
It is open only for an elite of players. One of them is her friend Murphy. After chasing a mysterious phantom child who is the portal to Avalon`s ultimate level,he is now in a persistent vegetative state. She doesn`t wanna believe that the game could possibly be responsible. When she gets the chance to enter Level A, she doesn`t hesitate.
But yet, nobody came back alive or unharmed after playing Level A.
Directed by Mamoru Oshii, a director better known for lots of top-notch animes, this is one of his few excursions into live-action movies.
Filmed in Poland, with polish actors( in polish language), this low-budget cyberpunk movie is a cult classic by now. Most of the film is held in washed-out colors, though not always in the same tone.
It goes from greyish to sepia, with different strength , to seperate reality from the game and more. One word of caution: The american release from Miramax uses an orange filter, that destroys much of the images, as they were intended. Though the diverse international releases all differ a bit color-wise, the orange filter of the Miramax version is deadly to the overall viewing experience. They also included some extra voice-overs by Ash, which are nonexistent in any other version. Maybe they thought the film might be to difficult to follow for the american viewer? Much of the fine details get lost. The problem is, while the Miramax version has an english audio track with often badly translated dialougue , if you wanna turn to other releases, you may have a hard time tracking one down that has english subs. I was searching for DVDs and Blue Rays, and almost all versions with english subs are OOP and almost impossible to find on Ebay or other DVD sites. And if you find one, they are asking astronomical prices. I found an australian release, but the seller didn`t provide any info about language or subtitles. It may even be the same as the Miramax version, dunno.
Sad, cuz I wouldn`t recommend the US version, at all. You can watch it, but as I said, a lot gets lost with that filter and the alienation of the source material with these voice-overs for dummies destroys, IMHO the intentions of the director. But it sure isn`t the first film to have suffered changes for the worse.
The film is not an all-out action piece , but no worries, there is enough of it. It is partly a mystery-thriller, too. The suspense is a big part of it. I think this is more of an adult, thinkin`man`s movie. It is not an action no-brainer.
The score/soundtrack supports the film greatly, and towards the climax, we are going into full-blown opera-mode.
The only actor/actress that really stands out is Malgorzata Foremniak (what a weird name is that?) as Ash, beautiful and strong. If they would`ve had plans back then to do a polished version of NIKITA, I would `ve recommended her.
The visuals of the game are pretty low-budget, especially by today`s standards…but are good enough and are in line with the rest of the film.The visuals set in the real world aim towards an 1940´s asthetic, with beautiful results throughout. Be reminded, this had only a budget of est. 8 million $. But because of the visuals and the rather intelligent approach, it outclasses other similar films with this kind of budget. It is a film that requests multiple viewings, you will probably discover different things each time….ten years after I`ve seen it for the first time( A friend came with the polish original DVD of it and translated the whole movie for me-poor bastard,lol.) Later I got the german version , convinced that I have seen a soon to be cult film( even if I hate that word in a way). I guess, that hardly anyone with a decent version ( I exclude the german version, cuz that one is still pretty easy to come by…) is willing to sell it!!!! , that shoud tell you something, I guess.
Down below a trailer and a link to a dvd comparison.