Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Requiem for a Dream

No public service announcement can convince you as effectively to not do drugs as well as this Darren Aronofsky film. Requiem for a Dream is a story of four individuals linked either by blood or water that watch their lives fade to tragedy as they are out chasing their desires via narcotics.

Friends Harry (Jared Leto) and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are partners in dealing and using. They ambitiously play small time gigs in back alleys of Brighton Beach with the hopes of eventually attaining the elusive "pound of pure." When they get this they will be set and Harry can help his fellow dope fiend girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly)start a fashion design business. All Harry really seems to want is Marion, a dream that shows her standing at a Coney Island pier waiting for him. Tyrone also has a simple dream, his mother's warm embrace (how he plans on attaining this by selling heroin, I do not know). Harry's mother Sarah (Ellen Burstyn) has so little to live for that she spends almost all of her time in her apartment watching television, more specifically an recurring infomercial about weight loss that plays like a drug in that it strives to get you addicted. She holds on to a single memory of her and her deceased husband at Harry's high school graduation. When she learns that she might be on television she goes on a crash diet including a prescription weight loss drug that turns out to be good ole dope.

The film is divided into Summer, Fall, and Winter. An initially dark film grows more morbid with each passing season. The dreams of these four Brooklynites go suffer as time goes on. After brief success by all of them (either in the form of moeny making or losing 25 pounds), they quickly begin to deteriorate. Lack of buyers, and more importantly, lack of drugs to satisfy their own addiction causes strife between Harry and Marion. Tyrone begins to feel more and more isolated and tries to fill the void with, presumably, easy women. Sarah clings tighter and tighter to her fantasy of being on the infomercial to tell the world how great her life is. She falls apart mentally and physically, she becomes delusional, stops eating at all, doesn't listen to anyone, and babels incoherently about her dream.

Towards the end, Harry and Tyrone go on a road trip to find a stash when they are arrested. Tyrone is put on, what is the equivalent of, a chain gang and Harry is sent to the hospital to have his severely infected junkie arm amputated. Marion resorts to prostitution, at first to a family friend, then to a stranger, and then put on display in front of a private crowd where she performs numerous tricks for all perverts to enjoy. Sarah is admitted to a mental hospital where she is forced fed, and eventually is treated with shock treatment that leaves her as aged (from stress) as the typical granny.

Not that my blogs are particularly good to begin with, but this review does not do the film any justice. This is just a brief summary of what occurs in an emotionally raging movie. It is a drama that combines powerful and haunting violin music with cinematography that shows reality in the film as very dark and the dream scenes as obnoxiously over lit by comparison. The characters deliver long speeches about their true motives and hopes in life, they give you a wonderful picture of who they are. This makes the Requiem part of the film that much more dramatic. An all around attention seizing story, it's piece la resistance is its very late climax scene where all four of our fellow New Yorkers go through intense suffering that effectively kills everything good about them, it is madness at its absolute finest. The dreams our protagonists are very simple (though Tyrone's is poorly developed and therefore the least likely to receive sympathy) they all just want the love of some other person. The movie ends with Sarah imagining, for the umpteenth time, that she and Harry are reunited on the infomercial set, hugging and exchanging kind words. The broken dream is best conveyed in Marion's final appearance where she curls up into the fetal position with her bag of crack, lying on the couch as her numerous fashion drawings lie scattered on the ground beneath her.

Though beautifully made, Requiem for a Dream is not a film I would recommend to half the people in my AP Lit class.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Mr. Bennet has said that signs is a non-existentialist film. However, that statement, like the whole issue of religion, is subjective.

In the film, Graham suffers the loss of his wife becuase a very overworked doctor falls asleep behind the wheel. After her death, Graham loses his faith becuase of the absurdity of the event. When the aliens come, it is not a prayer to Jesus that keeps the aliens from killing the Hess family, but boards and nails. The news report after the attack ends states something about middle eastern cities. Incidentally, this was where gun powder was invented, again, save yourself. The alien that almost kills Morgan is only defeated when Merril "swings away" with his record setting baseball bat. The aliens do not attack with magical super inventions, but with some sort of simple poison, they can not regenerate lost limbs, or do anything miraculous. They have a hard time with turning door knobs (for God's sake). The water spilling to kill the alien was not a literal device, so much as it was a caricature. Set up to poke fun at what religion promises for those that stir trouble, as it appears very silly on a literal level.

To say outright that this was an atheist film would be a stupid thing to say. There is way too much just beneath the surface that supports the idea of a greater being governing the universe, but after a close look at the film it would be unfair to say that there is nothing pro-existential about the movie either. MNS probably intended it that way.

A guide for the married man

It has been said that men cheat for the same reason that dogs lick themselves in unsavory places: becuase they can. If that is so, then it was only a matter of time before a film like this came out.

Paul Manning (Walter Matthau) is the average subburban husband/father, who finds himself unstimulated by his attractive and loving wife Ruth (Inger Stevens) and is constantly tempted by the seemingly endless supplies of young butts (there are dozens of shots of the postyerior in the film). Paul employes the help of his friend Ed to show him how to cheat in an elaborate and secretive fashion so he may get the best of both worlds.

The film is filled with (but not dominated by) little vinettes of numerous nameless men's methods of the ups and downs of infidelity. In every scene, Paul is taught a different lesson about "the game." Never bring the affair home; if you're married, don't venture outside that realm; it's for the good of your arraige. With every passing scene, the fine line between saying monogomous and disregarding marital vows gets smaller and intensity grows. Paul's carnal lust becomes all the more powerful, but Ruth's simple loving loyalty keeps bringing him back to her.

Eventually, he meets an allimony client that becomes very interested in him. Just as he has her in the motel room, all the windows covered, the doors locked, every detail from the previous few months carefully orchestrated for him to finally take this other plunge, he backs out. In the knick of time too, they barely escape the motel room as his pal Ed is caught by his picture snapping wife, presumably leading to a harsh divorce.

Relavtively stiff Paul is scarred stiffer by the incident. When he sees a room full of women, he avoids entering. An elevator exclusively consisting of X chromosomes results in his taking the fire escape. He speeds home from work everyday to see his wife and children and as he enters the door, little sing along words appear at the bottom to emphasize that the director does not believe in the moralistic message he has just presented.

Paul looks like a less attractive version of Richard Nixon, and Ed like a not-too-aesthetically pleasing JFK. Perhaps because this director wishes to indicate that no one is clean, and all have their little secrets. The disproportionate physical apperances of the men and women in the film shows two things:
1) director Gene has an affinity for blondes (as there is not a single unattractive one in the film).
2) The looks of men is unimportant, these older married gentlemen seem to pick up women far out of their leagues with relative ease.

The doom of Ed is spelled out for anyone watching when he and Paul are in the steam room, when Paul is reconsidering being dishonest with Ruth. The fog in the room suggests that Paul is being misguided, and that Ed does not know what he is doing.

If you're not a frustrated married man, then this film is still worth watching for its comedic value, interesting opening quotes, and its solid story.