Magazine article Variety

Carne Y Arena

Magazine article Variety

Carne Y Arena

Article excerpt

OUT OF COMPETITION - VIRTUAL REALITY

Carne y Arena

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Director of Photography: Emmanuel Lubezki

With: Hector Luis Busamante

It's always funny to hear how audiences, in 1903, reacted to the outrageous final shot of Edwin S. Porter's eight-minute film "The Great Train Robbery." The leader of the film's outlaw gang, Bronco Billy Anderson, points a gun right at the camera - at the audience - and shoots. People who first saw that thought a gun was actually being fired at them, and so they scrambled to get out of the way. How quaint! But when you experience "Carne y Arena," the extraordinary six-and-ahalf-minute virtual-reality installation that director is presenting at the Cannes Film Festival (an earlier version was mounted in Los Angeles), you may find yourself having a similar reaction.

It's pre-dawn, and you're alone, in the middle of the scrubby vastness of the Sonoran Desert, and when I say in the middle of that's not a figure of speech. You're there, staring out at the gray horizon, surrounded by vistas of sand and shrub brush that stretch in every direction. You can turn whichever way you want, and, more startlingly, you can walk wherever you want, this way or that way. From a great distance, a ragged group of people begin to emerge and walk toward you. They are immigrants making a trek toward the border. Just as you've grown used to their presence (you can walk toward them, or circle around them, or - as you may choose to do - walk right along with them), a helicopter appears, shining its spotlight downward, and as it flies closer and closer, the light becomes blinding, the sound overwhelming, and you find yourself doing something that's utterly instinctual: You duck. You try to get out of the way. The threat is that physical, that scary, that real. Just like that, you've become part of the audience cowering to avoid being shot at in "The Great Train Robbery."

For more than 25 years, we've been hearing about virtual reality. Yet I always suspected it was an idea whose fulfillment would turn out to be more virtual than real. "Carne y Arena" demonstrates that the VR revolution - the immersive, I can't believe what I'm seeing one - is here, and that it's an experience that has the potential to mutate into a major entertainment and popular art form. …

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