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So Good it's Bad?

 article about Requiem for a dream
Requiem For A Dream is the 21st Centurys answer to The Exorcist. The
latter was banned in Britain from 1973 to 1998. The British Board of
Film Censorship saying, the problem with The Exorcist is not that it is
a bad film, it is that it is a very good film. Its one of the most
powerful films ever made. The opposite of the popular so-bad its good
phenomenon, The Exorcist was so good it was bad.

When the film
was initially released, young British girls passed out and threw up
(though not in that order) in cinemas across the nation. Modern
audiences are made of sterner stuff; when The Exorcist was re-released
in 1998 there was no vomiting and there was even some laughing, the
special effects not dating as well as the narrative. However, I have to
confess that my (admittedly convincing) tough guy persona was dealt a
serious blow by Aronofskys latest. Requiem For A Dream left me wanting
my mommy.

There is plenty to criticize here. The tale of
Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly falling into drug
addiction is clichd, and some of the drug-talk left me unconvinced
(this stuff is dynamite), and the idea that Ellen Burstyns character is
addicted to the other drugs such as TV, coffee, sugar etcetera is
shouted rather than whispered. Letos character even says No ones a
bigger TV junkie than the old lady just in case theres someone very
slow out there who doesnt quite get it. Likewise, proceedings are more
than a little over stylised, so much overt technique that it shifts
attention away from the characters, sometimes resembling a very long
student film.

Its incredible that these quite significant
shortcomings dont detract from the absolutely terrifying
cant-watch-but-cant-look-away power of the second half of Requiem For A
Dream. Seeing Jared Leto force a syringe into his gangrenous arm is
horrifying enough, but there is nothing in the world that can prepare
you for the last fifteen minutes, a savage assault on the senses that
will leave you longing for a cold dark place to hide in.



When thought about rationally, the actual events arent so bad, it's the
way Aronofsky presents them that is so devastating. He repeats a
montage of extreme close ups, focusing on the nuts and bolts of drug
addiction, always culminating in a dilating pupil that fills the
screen. Sounds like a bad idea on paper but Aronofsky gives the montage
a rhythm, it becomes like a musical piece, subtly changing each time
its repeated.

Theres something darkly terrifying about
this little montage and the whole thing grows and expands to become a
four way cross cut of parallel action as the principal characters sink
into their individual tragedies, this being the basis of the above
mentioned nightmare inducing finale. This hypnotic rhythm must be why
even as you become so overwhelmed you think your head might explode it
is one hundred per cent impossible to look away; it slowly draws you in
and wont let go until youre spat out the other end.

With The
Exorcist, there is a pleasure in being shocked and scared, thats the
nature of the horror genre. Requiem For A Dream is a dramatic film, and
there is no pleasure in having your emotions mauled in this way (unless
youre a card carrying masochist), and assuming that you knew beforehand
getting addicted to heroin is not a good idea, theres nothing to be
learnt either. This in mind, its worth questioning if Requiem For A
Dream needs to exist at all, except maybe as something parents can
threaten their children with. Finish your dinner or Im putting you know
what in the DVD player! On the other hand something that prompts such a
strong reaction has to be

considered an achievement, art even.
Im certain of one thing; if Requiem For A Dream is re-released in 25
years time therell be no laughing in the theatres, just former tough
guys calling out for their mothers as the credits roll.

DVD:


None of the usual press junket repackaged as a making of here, and no
Jared and Jennifer sitting around talking about how Darren is simply
wonderful to work with. Instead, theres an excellent director's
commentary (Aronofsky knows whats what) and a short but informative few
minutes called Anatomy Of A Scene. There're deleted scenes aplenty if
thats what floats your boat, and also an interesting interview with
source material writer Hubert Selby Jr. Its everything you could ask
for shiny disc wise.

Daryl Grove

(Originally published by Tail Slate magazine www.sheridanrealm.com/movies )



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