Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Sh!#ting on the Classics: Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Darren Aronofsky is not without talent, but all of his films are rife with freshman film school tricks. Yes, the “liquid in the syringe/pupil dilating/blood rushing in the vein” montage is cool. But like his characters, Aronofsky has a problem with moderation. The montage in question does not get cooler the seventeen additional times it is repeated. Also heroin, being a narcotic, will not cause one’s pupil to dilate; heroin actually constricts the pupil. Fans of this film are glad to see that Aronofsky does not let basic medical facts stand in the way of a cool shot. Kind of like how Michael Bay has never been particularly concerned with gravity. Or reason.
Bay and Aronofsky share the same hysterical philosophy: poke, prod, and pummel the audience into submission. Requiem is the indie film equivalent of Michael Bay’s blockbuster nonsense like Transformers. It is big, loud, and relentless, and audiences mistake it for entertainment. Aronofsky’s films beat the audience with the enormous brown shit hammer of obviousness until the audience forfeits its collective soul and whimpers, “Art!” just so the film will go away and stop its relentless psychotic bullying. Both filmmakers regard the audience as a test-group of monkeys who must be constantly distracted by shiny objects, bright lights, and quick cutting.
Is there not one fucking light bulb in Requiem for a Dream that doesn’t randomly blink on and off?
Pseudo hipsters must enjoy feeling superior to these aggressively uninteresting characters: Jared Leto barely registers as a recognizable human being; Jennifer Connelly, never the most compelling actress to begin with, is a cipher; Ellen Burstyn is encouraged to shamelessly overact. None of the characters are sympathetic, and I believe Aronofsky secretly hates them, for he spends the better part of ninety minutes torturing them -- just to TEACH US A LESSON. The film is humorless and exploitive, either a fool’s or a mental patient’s view of the world.
In its own way, it is as hysterical and over the top as Reefer Madness and other anti-marijuana films of the thirties and forties. These days when someone invariably asks me my opinion of this film, I will counter with the pithy retort, “Gosh, before I saw Requiem, I did not know that drugs were bad.”
To say the end of the film is simplistic is an understatement. All of the characters meet bad ends. The audience is treated to an endless montage demonstrating the scourge of that DEVIL NEEDLE. A character submits to force-feedings through a nasal tube and multiple electro-shock treatments without proper anesthetic. Another character winds up in a Southern jail where he is forced to endlessly stir oatmeal while undergoing withdrawal. Another character’s arm drops off. The girl character (of course) is forced to appear in a live sex show to earn drug money. Key word: FORCED! No nuance. No subtlety. No shading. No shit! You do drugs and the next thing you know, you are ass to ass. Ain’t life grand?
Now excuse me while I go take a shower.
BETTER YET: Most Hollywood films about addiction are simplistic and over the top, from the above mentioned Reefer Madness to the Oscar-winning Lost Weekend to the more recent films Traffic, Leaving Las Vegas and 21 Grams. I am not sure if Hollywood has ever gotten this subject right.
Listen to Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.” In two minutes Young provides more elegiac heartbreak and more empathy to the helplessness of drug addiction than in all of these Hollywood films combined.