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December 16, 2010

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Ed Howard

Thanks for the mention, Isaac. I can see not liking Black Swan -- it's a real love-it-or-hate-it, go-for broke loony melodram -- but The Fountain seems to me like a genuinely great movie, Aronofsky's masterwork so far. It's really moving (I'm not ashamed to admit I'm brought close to tears every time) and visually inventive and utterly original. Aronofsky really came into his own with that film, especially after the empty but showy miserablism -- not unlike Chris Ware, come to think of it -- of Requiem for a Dream.

Anyway, thanks again, glad you enjoyed the conversation!

isaac

I actually liked Black Swan, just not as much as you did. Ultimately, I'm not sure it rises above being a (very interesting to talk about) pastiche of horror and psych thriller films from the 60s and 70s. I enjoyed the dickens out of it in the theatre, but don't know that I think it's worth revisiting (although I seem to love talking about it!)

My beef with Aronofsky is that once you strip away the aesthetics, I'm not always sure there's that much going on in his movies. Black Swan may be his best, in that the content and the look actually mirror (ha!) each other and create depth, rather than distraction.

For example.. Requiem for a Dream, once you strip away its aesthetics has all the content of an after school special. Don't do drugs kids! Thanks, dad.

The Fountain is... to me... not good. Heavy handed, terribly acted, poorly staged (you can tell the actors aren't in the same rooms with each other during coverage) and it uses a braided narrative to cover up that there's not much going on in any of the three parts. The depth of feeling Aronofsky is trying to conjure in that film is regularly sabotaged by how he chose to film it.

Ed Howard

I agree with the style-over-substance criticism in regards to Aronofsky's first 2 films, certainly. I've always had major problems with Requiem for a Dream, for exactly the reasons you state, as well as its wallowing in misery and suffering. It's such an unpleasant film. Since then, I'd argue, Aronofsky's aesthetics have been in service to much more substantial work. Your description of The Fountain has no relation to the film I know and love. But that seems to happen a lot when talking about Aronofsky. I wonder why he tends to incite these strong opposing reactions?

isaac

Honestly, I think it's because he's trying to do something. I admire his go-for-broke ethos (which I think comes from his guerilla filmmaking roots) even when I don't admire the eventual product. I'd rather he be devisive.

I also think that Aranofsky is *always* heavy handed. He's the kind of filmmaker who has someone talk about "the duality of identity" while shooting them broken into two reflections in a mirror. The guy is not subtle. I'm not sure he's actually capable of subtlety. I'm also not sure I mind that, when the films are working.

Ed Howard

Yeah, that was a big theme of our conversation about him: how he's always ridiculously unsubtle, which is sometimes great and sometimes aggravating. It's why I think The Fountain and Black Swan are his best pictures so far. He found a way to channel his lack of subtlety and his love of big, messy emotions into big, messy, unsubtle films that wear their hearts and their themes on their sleeves.

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