What I’ve Been Watching – Films on DVD

F0A20FC9-095B-4169-832C-BB3025B88CFB.jpgRequiem for a Dream
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (Pi, The Fountain, The Wrestler), Requiem for a Dream is based on a book of the same name written in the 70s. The dream it refers to is almost certainly the American one: that hard work and determination can give you all your wants and desires in the land of the free.

The validity of said dream is questioned in the form of addiction. The three younger characters are all addicted to heroin, and the lead’s mother is addicted to television and junk food.

Aptly described as one of the most depressing movies ever made, the film’s plot sees things going from bad (functioning addicts) to worse (their drug dealing business loses its supply/addiction & diet pills that turn out to be amphetamines) to worse again (infected needles, prostitution, the ‘diet pills’ cause the mother to lose her grip on reality).

The way this is handled by Aronofsky only adds to this sense of despair. The now infamous score; the fast cutting from one tragic character’s circumstances to the next; and the use of dream sequences all give the viewer little chance of escape or release.

Though not a horror movie in the traditional sense, this is much more difficult to watch than some random teenager get chopped to death by an enraged masked figure. The pain and suffering feels a lot more pronounced, and the final scene isn’t merely affective because of what’s going on in front of you, but also because of its intensity, and feeling of never letting up.

Requiem For A Dream is certainly a movie you will remember. I can’t decide if I should be angry at Aronofsky for purposefully showing me something so bleak and devoid of hope. Ultimately I feel the message his film has about addiction and the precarious nature of the American Dream is worth telling. Although I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who felt they would rather sit this one out.

FAD5543D-AE23-440A-AC4B-00F5FBA932AD.jpgMimic
Over the last ten years I’ve come to love the “B-Movie”, by which I mean any movie which forgoes artistic integrity in favour of a more basic form of entertainment. This classification of movies is most closely associated with the horror and action genres (Evil Dead, Crank, Final Destination). And it’s perhaps typical of the last ten years, that directors make these movies with the intention of making them as ridiculous and exploitative as possible (cf. Grindhouse).

Del Torro’s Mimic should be exactly that. Certainly, I can’t see how its writer intended this to be anything other that a fun, rollicking adventure about some bugs that evolve into humanoid predators. Nevertheless, there are some trademarks of del Torro’s movies present here that attempt to give it some depth. The opening scene in a children’s hospital is reminiscent of The Devil’s Backbone, and also the more recent The Orphanage. The use of religious metaphors (The priest falling to his death past a neon sign proclaiming Jesus saves for example) is also in keeping with his modus operandi.

Clearly there’s some deeper themes that del Torro wants us to think about. However, given the broad strokes and one-note characters the film contains, any message the film was supposed to convey gets lost under the sound of “Mr Funny Shoes” and co.

Where the film excels is in its silly/exploitative moments. Kids die in the most gruesome of manners; characters collect faeces; insect guts must be smothered over our protagonists so they can hide the smell of their humanity. It’s also worth noting that the impressive design of “Mr Funny Shoes” is reminiscent of some of the more iconic creatures from Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy.

Mimic fails in the sense that I don’t think it’s the movie del Torro intends it to be (especially when viewed alongside his other works). Nevertheless, it’s the type of movie that’s best watched alongside friends, since the set pieces and idiosyncrasies of the plot are either entirely ridiculous or entirely genius.

B5C9E8B6-FF41-4D6E-941B-B2D2417CC06B.jpgShadow of a Doubt
1943 was a long time ago. 67 years to be precise. It’s interesting to me how few people will seek out films from that era, (wrongly) assuming they’ll have nothing to saw to a 21st century audience. Unlike bookstores which have whole shelves devoted to ‘classics’, it’s rare to see a similar section in your local Blockbuster.

In many ways Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt does come from a completely different world. Set in a small town, where everyone knows everyone, it opens as Uncle Charlie is about to visit his sister’s family, much to the delight of his niece, also called Charlie. However, Charlie’s initial delight soon turns to fear, as she discovers some cops have been following her uncle across the states on suspicion of murder.

Like all good movies, you soon forgive its obvious foibles (the slightly dodgy dialogue, and unnecessary repeating of expositional dialogue) as the movie finishes setting-up its key characters and the story of the mysterious Uncle Charlie kicks in.

Aside from the main plot, there’s a couple of nice side characters and exchanges that give the film some depth beyond that of a traditional thriller. The father and his best friend are constantly discussing ways of killing one another, inspired by detective stories like Sherlock Holmes and so on. Despite this, they have no clue about the real-life mystery going on around them.

Also admirable is Hitchcock’s depiction of small-town America: which purposefully idolises the way people are overly familiar with one another’s lives. Meaning travellers like Uncle Charlie are seen as as great adventurers with colourful, exhilarating stories to share.

Shadow of a Doubt is clearly a well-loved movie (No. 201 in IMDb’s Top 250 movies of all-time). It’s nicely paced and well constructed, and although not a masterpiece, it is nevertheless consistently enjoyable and entertaining.

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