Requiem for a Dream (SE) /A,B+
Artisan/2000/102/ANA 1.85

     Darren Aronofsky is a hypnotist; a cinema hypnotist. A visual seducer; a hip-hop rhythm movie maker. Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky's second feature, expands on the stylistic bravura of debut feature Pi. By the time you realize this is not just another cleverly cut montage of emptiness, Requiem for a Dream has invested itself with such power, it's like a drug, a film strip drug coursing through your imagination.
    The film is seductive in a horrifying way. Is there a sympathetic character within a hundred miles of film? I don't really think so. Almost every character is distorted, depressed, disillusioned or depraved. I have little tolerance for the drug scene. Requiem does not make it seem attractive, that's for certain. The characters at their very highest are totally out of it. The descent into a black pit of nothingness offers no hope or redemption. The film is never less than mesmerizing. A powerful, if depressing, experience.

Sarah's desperation is captured by actress and camera. ©Artisan

     The acting and the filmmaking blend with frustrating ease. Separating performance from direction is a difficult chore. Ellen Burstyn is thoroughly compelling as Sarah Goldfarb. It's the unafraid performance by a seasoned pro, but the garish camera angles and fantasy make-up is an essential part of the portrait of the old lady descending into hell brought on by loneliness and hope. Jared Leto turns in another excellent performance as dazed and diffused Harry Goldfarb. Leto's desperation perspires right through the camera. Jennifer Connelly cuts to the quick as Harry's girlfriend Marion and Marlon Wayans is equally adept as Harry's drug compatriot Tyrone.
     Aronofsky uses repetition to both echo and amplify the power of addiction. Not only does this visual stylization add to the film's narrative, it is visually devastating. Complimented by powerful and aggressive sound editing, these segments help link the sections of the film connecting the chain of events from end to end.
     What a brilliant choice to have the strings of the Kronos Quartet delivering the score for Requiem for a Dream. The stridently harmonious disquieting music propels the illusion, mixes the stupor with an added sense of isolation. The camera and lighting work of cinematographer Matthew Libatique is fluid and nightmarish.
     It's hard to decide where the stylized photography with its enhanced grain and the transfer separate ways. Some scenes are a tad soft, but overall Requiem for a Dream is delivered in a first rate transfer. There's no apparent edge enhancement. Contrast range, quite subtle at times, looks accurate. The colors are dreamy and washed out as per the cinematographers prescription or fully saturated depending upon the mood. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround mix adds to the nightmare mood with crashing style.
     Requiem for a Dream, included the extras, which was a project.. The extras are quite interesting. There's a twenty minute interview of author Hubert Selby Jr. conducted by Ellen Burstyn. Strange character, that Selby. The making of is atypical in that it is simply video shot while making the production with voiceover commentary from director Aronofsky. That runs about a half hour. A bunch of deleted scenes as well. The menus may be clever and salient to the material, but they are ever so maddening. Me? I like to cut to the quick and start the bloody feature. Requiem for a Dream js a powerful experience.






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