Darren Aronofsky Movies

darren-aronofsky-movies


A formerly regular column returns this week with some thoughts on the career and films of a personal favorite filmmaker.

Darren Aronofsky’s absence from the cineplexes since the real social media boon means he isn’t mentioned as often among contemporaries like Wes Anderson, PT Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and others, but anyone who’s paying attention knows the man is one of the essential American auteurs.

Aronofsky’s films come in two sizes and two styles. The bigger films jump through time and utilize loads of special effects, while the smaller ones are, as you’d expect, modestly budgeted and more realistic. From there, you have the single-character pieces and the tapestries—films that focus (mostly) on a single individual or ones that weave together the stories of many. Aronofsky has done them all—big single-character pieces (Noah), small tapestries (Requiem for a Dream), and so on.

What carries through all Darren Aronofsky movies is his willingness to go there—the extra mile through craft, story, or both to upset his viewers. He doesn’t do this emptily, but to convey his themes—namely obsession and the dangers inherent in finding oneself in over one’s head.

Darren Aronofsky Movies

Pi

A genius named Max holds in his mind the key to understanding mankind’s place in the universe. Various powerful entities attempt to win his confidence.

RATING:
(1998, 1 viewing)

The craft is indicative of someone who’s making his first film, but Aronofsky uses the film’s low budget in his favor. The grainy quality of the black-and-white cinematography makes an already unsettling story all the more unsettling. It’s quite a special movie—one I haven’t revisited since I saw it years ago, but it has stuck with me as the director’s second best effort to date.

Requiem for a Dream

Four Coney Islanders are affected by drugs in different but equally horrific ways.

RATING:
(2000, 3+ viewings)

With Pi, Aronofsky established himself as a filmmaker to watch. With just one more movie, he was firmly among the best directors working in film. Requiem for a Dream is a masterpiece. In the realm of female performances this millennium, there’s no rival to Ellen Burstyn’s sensational work as a naive mother who loses herself to speed. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans are great, too, and Aronofsky’s use of hopeful, dreamlike sequences in the midst of his quickly-cut, drug-fueled horror film will squash your soul and guarantee you’ll never do drugs ever again (I SWEAR!).

The Fountain

Three men—each living in the years 1500, 2000, and 2500 respectively—attempt to unlock the key to eternal life.

RATING:
(2006, 3+ viewings)

Probably Aronofsky’s toughest film to appreciate, it took me a little while to really come around to The Fountain. It is awfully pretentious, but it has big things on its mind, and you can’t fault the director for trying. That isn’t to say he doesn’t succeed in crafting three pretty damn compelling stories that interlock in beautiful ways. All I’m saying is that Jackman whispering sweet nothings to the tree is super weird.

The Wrestler

An aging and formerly beloved pro wrestler must retire due to a heart problem. He finds that giving up his passion and trying to assimilate are extremely difficult.

RATING:
(2008, 2 viewings)

If it didn’t have to contend with Burstyn’s monumental work, Mickey Rourke’s performance as Randy The Ram would easily be the best to come from a Darren Aronofsky film. He’s this film’s everything, and this film is really good—vicious and raw, yet graceful and so powerful.

Black Swan

A professional ballet dancer wins the role of a lifetime—the leads in Swan Lake—but as opening night gets closer, she finds herself being consumed by the evil characteristics of the Black Swan. (Click here for my full Black Swan review.)

RATING:
(2010, 2 viewings)

I really dug Black Swan the first time I caught up with it. The second time? Struck me as awfully messy, even borderline incomprehensible—and not in a good way. Until I break the tie (which might not ever happen, frankly), I’m meeting those two wildly different opinions in the middle. Let’s call Black Swan what it is: an over-the-top show business mind-bender with great craft and very solid performances.

Noah

A man is warned by God of an impending flood that will end all life on Earth if he doesn’t build and ark to house every species on the planet.

(2014, 0 viewings)

Hell, I don’t know what to make of this one, but thankfully, my curiosity will be satisfied very soon. I’ve been utterly unimpressed by the film’s marketing, but the final cut dispute, which Aronofsky won, has me thinking the poor trailers and commercials are indicative of a studio concerned about how they’ll sell something that is, for lack of a better word, very “Aronofsky.” Reviews are impenetrable, which is to say there’s absolutely no consensus on the film. No matter. We’ve waited four years, and there’s a new Darren Aronofsky movie coming out. All the shitty spots and reviews in the world couldn’t keep me away.

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2 Responses to Darren Aronofsky Movies

  1. Brittani March 25, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I’m glad you singled him out. He really is a very intriguing director. I’d have to say Black Swan is my favorite of his.

    Reply
  2. Steven Flores March 24, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    For me so far…

    1. The Wrestler
    2. Requiem for a Dream
    3. Black Swan
    4. Pi
    5. The Fountain

    Reply

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