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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/12/01

Requiem for a Dream
Director's Cut - 2000 (2001) - Artisan

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Requiem for a Dream: Director's Cut Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A/A

Specs and Features

102 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:29:21, in chapter 31), audio commentary track by director/co-writer Darren Aronofsky, audio commentary by director of photography Matthew Libatique, 9 deleted scenes (with optional director's commentary), The Making of Requiem for a Dream documentary, Memories, Dreams and Addictions (Ellen Burstyn interviews writer Hubert Selby Jr.), Sundance Channel's Anatomy of a Scene: Requiem for a Dream featurette, teaser trailer, theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots, stills from the website, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, production notes, Tappy Tibbon's life story Easter egg, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (33 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

"Last summer was a motherfuckin' ball... eh, Jim? It seems like a thousand years ago since last summer, man."

I honestly don't know what I can say about Requiem for a Dream as a film critic. One side of me wants to dissect the film into pieces, analyzing choices, trying to find meanings that may or may not be there. But that will cause me to come off like some pompous film theorist, and that's no fun. Another part of me wants to thrash this film from left to right, which would open up a whole new can of worms. Even though I love it, I don't want to fall into the fanboy trap of heaping undo praise onto a filmmaker that still hasn't given us that FILM that we know is in him. Requiem proves that writer/director Darren Aronofsky knows how to make a film, but I question whether he's the storyteller that I personally and honestly want him to be at this point.

Aronofsky is a talent. There's no questioning that. He's such a refreshing talent that I will always eagerly await anything and everything he does. And he deserves all of the orgasmic writing people give his films. Reading Harry Knowles' liner notes/review (included in the disc's packaging) is an utter and complete chore... but you can understand where he's coming from when you know what he's trying to say. I love this guy from Coney Island (not Harry... Darren). I'd go as far to say that I lump him into my filmmaking "shining knights" category - the young turks that I hope will save all of us from ourselves and keep us from enjoying films like Pearl Harbor and Godzilla too much. Aronfosky, David Fincher and Harmony Korine are three guys that, when I look at their films, I wonder if I really should aspire to that line of work. I wonder if I'm worthy of the job of directing film (if someone were so foolish to offer it). I just have to slap myself and come to the realization that no matter what we think of ourselves, it's okay to have heroes. And it's okay to admit that there might be people way more talented than you.

Requiem for a Dream is two stories, essentially told side by side. First up, we have Sara (Ellen Burstyn), a lonely housewife who finds herself invited to participate in her favorite television show. She'd get to talk about her wonderful husband and accomplished son. Problem is, her husband is dead and her son, Harry, is a junkie. But she's got her moment in the spotlight and seizes it. Her plan is to wear her favorite red dress - the one she wore in her happier times. She's a bit heavier these days, so on the diet wagon she goes. But she finds it hard, especially when her refrigerator barks and howls at her and donuts fly at her from ceiling fixtures. When a friend tells her about a doctor who prescribes diet pills like they were grape Pez, she signs up and that's the road she starts on in her story.

Harry, her son, is the other focus of the film. His story follows his adventures trying to make the perfect score. His girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and best bud Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are along for the ride. Things go up and down for these three... ultimately WAY down.

Requiem obviously is about addiction. And it's also about love. It might even be about those who are addicted to love. What's healthy? What works? What can be said about our need as a race to stick things inside of the tiny holes in our soul to fill us up? Can I be addicted to DVD? Aronofsky really goes for the gut here. He cuts things at such a fast pace, with music kicking our brains and filmed effects illustrating his points. And even if I found most of it intriguing, some of it I found too jarring to get me involved in the characters and thus, the story. I like what he did, but I think a lot of it was masturbation for the most part. When you're watching a film like this, about people like this, you need to understand THEM, not what it's like to be there. Aronofsky shows us what it feels like and we can empathize with his characters, but I couldn't tell you a thing about them. I didn't care an iota about one person in this film. I take that back. I cared about Burstyn, but I think more of that has to do with her and less to do with the story. I'm still waiting for the film that gets Aronofsky the stock he deserves. This isn't it, but when he makes it, the world will notice and I think he'll be holding a gold statue for it.

My quibbles aside, Requiem looks utterly bad ass on DVD. Color rendition is beautiful. The cold scenes are freezing and the warm shots smolder. Density is thick with no visible artifacts or source defects. And believe me, there's plenty that could have screwed up this transfer for home viewing - between ghosting effects, smoky environs and the thousand and one skewed camera shots. And guess what? Artisan actually gives us an anamorphic transfer, so that's cool all by itself. The sound is also quite playful. It's a very dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 with active surrounds and a hearty dialogue channel up front and center. With the trippy music, pounding effects and whispered mutters, you can just close you eyes and experience a brand new film by just listening to it.

The extras on this disc help round out the film a bit, but because it's so straightforward, you're not going to get any deep meanings revealed. There are a pair of commentary tracks, the first by Aronofsky and the second commentary by his director of photography Matthew Libatique. Both go into the processes involved in creating this film, and they talk about what drew them, what they wanted to avoid and how they got what they needed. Both are very enjoyable, but didn't stick with me afterwards. You'll also find 9 deleted scenes, but they are pretty useless. Three or four of them are really one section and another one is Wayans jiving on Phantom Menace which is so passe that it's stupid. These scenes feature optional commentary by Aronofsky, but he doesn't talk throughout the whole running time. For documentary fans there is The Making of Requiem for a Dream which shows us how the production went and it's a pretty cool making of. There's Memories, Dreams and Addictions where Ellen Burstyn interviews writer Hubert Selby Jr. about just how freaky his life was and is. I wouldn't want to be this guy. Rounding out the extras is one of Sundance Channel's Anatomy of a Scene interstitials about the film making processes used for this film, the teaser trailer, the theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots, stills from the ultra-sweet website, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, production notes and Tappy Tibbon's life story as an Easter egg off the front menu.

Requiem for a Dream is great filmmaking. But in my head it's not a great film. Not when I look at the potential of the filmmaker. If this were a first time feature, I'd be crowing a different tune. But Pi broke Aronofsky and this is just a muscle flex off that masterstroke. Am I disappointed? No. I have patience. And at this pace, by his fourth or fifth film, I think we're going to see Aronofsky take off and surprise us all. I guess he needs to experiment and find himself. But at least I knew I was right for falling in love with his work from the get go. This is a guy to watch, and I'm going to hope we can watch for a long time to come.

Todd Doogan
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