* It's been a long, strange trip since Darren Aronofsky last invited viewers into his cinematic world–six years in fact–but THE FOUNTAIN is sure to enchant, beguile, and inspire intense debate among his patient fans. During the frustrating gap since 2000's REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, Aronofsky has struggled to bring THE FOUNTAIN to the screen, principally because leading man Brad Pitt dropped out of the project. The complex tale is split into three different time periods, beginning in the 16th century, when a conquistador named Tomas (Hugh Jackman) strives to find the Tree of Life. The second part of the story finds Jackman playing a Buddha-like character who zips through outer space and dreams of a woman named Izzi (Rachel Weisz). And the third part, which consumes most of the film's screen time, is set in the present day and sees Jackman playing a doctor named Tommy, who is married to the terminally-ill Izzi. In this third section Tommy strives to find a cure for Izzi's brain tumor, and makes some progress after experimenting on a monkey with a substance discovered in a tree in South America. Meanwhile, Izzi has been writing a book that she calls THE FOUNTAIN, but has left the final chapter for Tommy to write. As Aronofsky pushes and pulls his sepia-tinted film between the three time periods, he weaves a deeply thoughtful, special effects-laden story that touches on themes of mortality and self, and requires a great deal of work from the director's audience. Movies such as Kubrick's 2001 and Tarkovsky's SOLARIS come to mind as Aronofsky gets deep into philosophical waters, and the various story strands of THE FOUNTAIN are as inconclusive and open to interpretation as the films that have clearly influenced it. The film makes for uneasy and sometimes confusing viewing, but will find its audience among intrepid souls who are fully prepared to let go and immerse themselves in Aronofsky's peculiar, daring, and thoughtful cinematic universe.