VENICE - “Gravity” opens, in coy denial of the mammoth imagery soon to follow, with modest white letters on a black screen, spelling out facts about outer space that sound more than a little like threats. “Life in space is impossible,” the titles conclude, after warning us off with daunting details of distance, physics and unimaginable cold. It’s a simple and – at least from a terrestrial perspective – pretty inarguable thesis that Alfonso Cuarón’s astonishing new film nonetheless goes to great, gruelling and frequently gasp-inducing pains to illustrate, before opening up less certain possibilities with a sudden surge in its own emotional temperature. Life in space is a no-go, sure. But what about life after?
It’s been seven long years since Cuarón, the serenely versatile Mexican stylist capable of finding grace notes in raunchy south-of-the-border road trips and Harry Potter alike, last visited our screens with a chilling fantasy that now sits as an unwittingly perfect bookend to his latest: in “Children of Men,” life scarcely seems possible on Earth.