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Non-Review Review: mother!

mother! is a vicious and visceral parable.

For all its flaws, mother! is never less than compelling. It is an ambitious piece of work, a piece of filmmaking that really knows what it wants and really goes for it, with little regard for the audience’s comfort or for the conventions of storytelling. mother! is an absurdist and surrealist narrative, one that makes no apologies for its more bizarre twists or brazen brutality. Aronofsky has conceded that he wrote the first draft of mother! in ten days, a much shorter turnaround than most of his films. It shows in the best possible way, with mother! feeling like a gonzo fever dream.

There are problems, to be fair. mother! is probably strongest in its opening acts, when it is still structured as a mystery to the audience, when the uncanny aspects of the script are creeping in around the edge of the narrative and the story supports any number of allegorical interpretations. This otherworldliness carries over to the second half, when it is paired with an intensity and momentum that prevents mother! from ever completely losing its footing. At the same time, the conclusion feels overly literal and blunt, sacrificing ambiguity for purity of vision.

While this is a serious enough flaw from a narrative perspective, it is hard to complain too much. mother! is energetic and invigourating, brash and bold. It is a movie that feels completely and utterly unlike a relatively high-profile mainstream cinematic release, the studio committing wholeheartedly to Aronofsky’s vision in a manner that is never less than endearing. mother! is pure and unfiltered Aronofsky, with the flavour only overwhelming in the final third.

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Non-Review Review: Noah

Noah is very hard to process. It’s very much an adaptation of its source material – very clearly a biblical epic that draws from The Book of Genesis in terms of tone and mood and imagery. It’s a story that is harrowing and horrifying, couched in allegory and metaphor and built around an idea of divinity that is difficult to comprehend.

At points, Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic seems to move in dream-time; the imagery is abstract, the scope almost impossible to comprehend; time and scale are conveyed through disjointed slideshows that invite the viewer to composite them together, creating a sense that this is more abstract than conventional storytelling.

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Like The Fountain before its, Noah is a story that seems to exist without place and time. Witnessing the devastation that mankind has done to the world around it, it seems like our protagonists have stumbled into a post-apocalyptic wasteland with burnt trolleys and abandoned pipes scattered across scorched Earth.

Past, present and future co-mingle, creating a sense that this is a world without time as we might conventionally understand it. After all, this isn’t the real world. This is a story. The internal logic is prone to shift like uncertain ground, the viewer never quite sure if they’ve properly found their footing. Aronofsky’s vision is at times frustratingly oblique, but more than occasionally brilliant.

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It captures a lot more of The Book of Genesis than most of its critics would concede – in mood and tone as much as literal interpretation. At the same time, it makes a pretty compelling example of why big crowd-pleasing biblical epics don’t tend to draw from The Book of Genesis, favouring later – less difficult and polarising – biblical material.

It’s very hard to imagine Noah as a commercial exercise – to recognise a group that will respond to a story that is willing to be so bold in tackling its subject material. And yet, at the same time, it is an absolutely intriguing piece of cinema.

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My Best of 2011: Black Swan & The Elevation of Schlock…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Black Swan is number six. Check out my original review here.

It’s interesting, how one can end up loving the same films, for very different reasons. I suspect that a great many critics and commentators lavish praise on Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan for its elegance and sophistication, which I appreciate and admire. There’s a lot to love about the film. However, my own appreciation of the movie seems to be for a very different reason. I think that what makes Black Swan so utterly compelling is the fact that it’s essentially a classic horror movie elevated to the status of fine art.

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Requiem for The Wolverine: Why Darren Aaronofsky was the Perfect Choice to Direct The Wolverine…

I was actually really anticipating what Darren Aronofsky could bring to The Wolverine, the sequel to the rather lackluster X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So I was actually genuinely disappointed when it was announced – rumoured to be for the inevitable creative reasons – that Aronofsky would not be directing the film after all. While it’s great that this affords Aronofsky complete creative freedom on the next film he works on, and while I certainly don’t want a film that has been subject to Fox’s executive meddling, I can’t help but regret what might have been.

Blades of glory?

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Non-Review Review: Black Swan

We’re currently blogging as part of the “For the Love of Film Noir” blogathon (hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren) to raise money to help restore the 1950’s film noir The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me). It’s a good cause which’ll help preserve our rich cinematic heritage for the ages, and you can donate by clicking here. Over the course of the event, running from 14th through 21st February, I’m taking a look at the more modern films that have been inspired or shaped by noir. Today’s theme is “alterna-noir” – just looking at slightly unusual choices.

Wow. That was disturbing. It’s really rare to get such a strong reaction to a film, and to feel so distinctly uncomfortable. Well, it’s easy to feel distinctly uncomfortable – rent a Lars Von Trier film or The Human Centipede. However, the Black Swan feels bold and vivid and disturbing, without ever feeling cheap. It seems to be a very tough line to walk (especially given some of the sequences which could be deemed “trashy” in the hands of lesser directors), but the Black Swan manages to make the viewer squirm in their seats without ever feeling dirty.

Let's dance!

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How Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Oscars…

This is a bit of a belated reaction to the Oscar nominations announced last Tuesday. Going in, I was pretty much agreed with the general consensus – in fact, the only prediction I really bothered to make was that Christopher Nolan would be snubbed in the Best Director categoryagain. A lot of people were surprised that he was omitted, but I really wasn’t – the Academy has made some cosmetic changes, but there’s still that sense of elitism which excludes the director of “common” blockbusters. Anyway, perhaps it’s because I predicted it, but I’m actually fairly okay with the list of nominees this year. When the one snub is the snub you see coming, there’s really not too much to complain about.

Leo won't be strutting to the Oscars this year...

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Are the Oscars Still a Pipe Dream for Christopher Nolan?

As I write this, the clock is counting down. The Oscar race is in full swing. And I look back, and I really haven’t written too much about it. There are two reasons for this. The most obvious is that I haven’t seen too many of the contenders. Of the headliners, I have seen both The King’s Speech and The Social Network. I have yet to see The Black Swan, 127 Hours or True Grit. Of the lower-tier Oscar films, I have really only seen Inception and The Kids Are All Right. It isn’t that I don’t want to see them, it’s just that it has been a busy January and things have gotten in the way. The other reason I haven’t been blogging about it is because – barring what the competition between The King’s Speech and The Social Network says about the Academy – it has been a pretty bland year. There are so many “locks” that the race has become almost boring. In fact, the only real question I’m at all concerned about is whether Christopher Nolan will finally get that Best Director nomination he so sorely deserves.

Could this turn the Oscars upside down?

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