December 01, 2006 06:02
Who is Darren Aronofsky?
Coming in Mid-December to Integral Naked
After completing only two feature films, Darren Aronofsky is one of the most acclaimed independent film directors in the United States. The following is a frequently updated bio of the director:
Darren Aronofsky was born February 12, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up Darren was always artistic; he loved classic movies and as a teenager he even spent time doing graffiti art. After High School, Darren went to Harvard University to study film (both live action and animation). He won several film awards after completing his senior thesis film, Supermarket Sweep (starring Sean Gullette), which went on to becoming a National Student Academy Award Finalist. After graduating from Harvard, Darren attended the American Film Institute where his 1993 thesis film Protozoa gave birth to many of the visual techniques employed in his feature motion pictures. Aronofsky first began work on a feature film in [February] 1996, where he began creating the concept for Pi, a psychological scifi thriller. After the Pi script received great reactions from friends, he began production. (The film re-teamed Aronofsky with Gullette, who played the lead.)
When starting Pi, Aronofsky and crew realized they didn't have enough money to complete the film. Associate Producer, Scott Franklin, came up with the idea to ask every person they knew for $100 to help complete the film. (Later in production certain individuals put in more cash, which let Aronofsky complete the film.) After Pi was completed (with a budget somewhere around $60,000), Darren Aronofsky received praise from critics and film-buffs alike, and landed his film an award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 1998 the film was picked up by Artisan and released in selected cities.
One of Darren's favorite books of all time was Hubert Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn. While editing Pi, producer Eric Watson convinced Aronofsky to read another Selby book, Requiem For A Dream. (Darren had actually started the book years before but stopped reading.) Darren was heavily impacted and wanted to film an adaption of the novel. While Darren thought about Requiem, he also became involved in two other projects:
Even while Pi was still in theaters, news sprung up that Aronofsky was contemplating adapting a Frank Miller comic called Ronin as his next movie. (Darren had been a big fan of the comic book along with other Miller comics, such as Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns--in fact the visual style for Pi had actually been influenced by a black and white comic titled, Sin City, which was written and drawn by Frank Miller.
Around the same time the Ronin news broke, news sprang up that Darren Aronofsky was involved in another film as well: Proteus (Now titled Below). Dimension Films had signed Darren to write the sci-fi thriller set on a Submarine during WWII, and Aronofsky seemed all set to direct. In an interview, Aronofsky stated that horror movies at gone too far over the edge with gore, and vowed to give the film a very psychological feel.
Darren decided he would do Requiem For A Dream first and quickly began working on the Requiem script. (Hubert Selby Jr. co-wrote the script along with Aronofsky.) By the time Requiem debuted in year 2000, Aronofsky was a favorite among indie-film lovers.
After Requiem was completed, problems protruded from both Ronin and Proteus: He put Ronin on hold, although according to a recent interview the project may not be dead forever, and director David Twohy signed on to develop Proteus which began filming in May of 2001 and was released with the name Below in 2002. (Darren stayed on as an executive producer for the project.)
Since Requiem For A Dream's debut, Darren has received major media attention as well as swept away some big Hollywood execs. However, not everything went through as immediatly or painlessly as planned: Aronofsky signed on with Warner Bros. to restart the live action Batman movie franchise with Batman: Year One and direct a big-budget scifi project titled The Fountain. However, after Aronofsky turned in his Year One screenplay, WB opted to go with a different direction for a Batman film with Chris Nolan's Batman Begins. Pre-production troubles on The Fountain stalled the film several times for over two years. However, The Fountain is finally now filming in Montreal with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in the lead roles. The picture is now looking to a possible 2005 release.
The Fountain was released in November 2006. For information about the movie, click here.
UPDATE: The following is a review of The Fountain by our own Stuart Davis:
I went to see The Fountain last night. As I suspected before I went (based on the fact that I'd seen Pi and Requiem For A Dream, Aronofsky's previous films), The Fountain is getting shafted in many reviews, and it's another frustrating case of a film with a genuinely trans-rational vision being mistaken as merely ir-rational by film critics who are frankly out of their depth in judging it. This phenomenon happens to be one of my biggest pet peeves.
There is a uniquely acute kind of pain which comes from 1, witnessing a work of radical depth and vision miraculously finding its way into an otherwise asphyxiating, flatland environment and then 2, being misinterpreted or derided by key figures in the media, simply because it is over their head, deeper than their Heart, and beyond the register of their humanity. This syndrome -let's call it Inadequat Resonance (because the reviewers and critics in question don't have access to the many of the frequencies vibrating in the film, they are deaf to them) doesn't occur that often, because it's rare for a film with an authentic trans-rational dimension to make into the mainstream machine. But when Inadequate Resonance does occur in reviewers, as it did with Mulholland Drive (a Mystical masterpiece mapping bardo realms and samsara), and Thin Red Line (a lead character in the Witness, observing the Divine as ever-present in the midst of gruesome violence and bloodshed, pure esoteric transmission of the highest order), Dancer In The Dark, I Heart Huckabees, Magnolia, and now possibly with The Fountain, it is an acute kind of ache you feel to see audiences, and reviewers, miss the mark, and the opening those films provide. They are portals to Self.
It's funny, we don't even acknowledge that it's possible WE might be the problem here -that maybe what's lacking in a film's fate is the depth of its Viewership. Do we have any responsibility to show up, or is it simply, universally the onus of the Director to take lazy buttholes and make them Buddhas? Are we not even part of the equation in the inter-subjective equation? There is the author's intention, the ability of the actors to convey it, the capacity of the director to capture and sculpt it, but where are WE in the mix? At minimum there are dozens of key perspectives enacted, and OURS is most definitely one of them. What level of ourselves are we watching a film from?
It's sad to see the smallness in us dismiss great pictures.
We assume many things can be deficient -the acting, the script, the directing- but we never even consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the reviewer, or the audience, has not sufficiently accessed their own depth, and so have deprived themselves of what's Right There, in front of their face. The Game of Being, inviting them to lift another veil, and claim their own Nature. Few of us choose to do that -are willing to do that- even fewer risk such vulnerability in the mainstream media. I guess that's why I have to suffer someone like Roepert malign The Fountain -a work of stunning vision- because it's preferable to roll your eyes in the presence of kaleidoscopic awe and wonder than it is to DIE INTO IT. That's what The Fountain asks of us. To die into the Ineffable, surrender our stories to the Absolute at the center of the Labyrinth, and in so doing, be annihilated, absorbed by Love, and emitted back into the World (all the discrete reflections of our Self) again as Transparent Being.
The Fountain -and Aronofsky- dares to make this invitation with utter sincerity, real vulnerability. It assumes the best in us, that we will naturally relax and expand into bigger ways of knowing. We won't get The Fountain in its fullest if we insist that it come together like the soothing analgesics we've stupidly conflated with story-telling. The greatest story-telling is the kind that undoes our stories. The suffocating identities we become addicted to. The Fountain wants us to apprehend its Enigma with senses we may not even be willing to admit we have. Are we up it? Aronofsky is. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz are. They conspire to place us in the Center of our own Suchness. It's up to us not to freak out and flee at the first sign of ~!~¿~!~
Admittedly, just because a film is trans-rational doesn't mean it's engaging. Just because a film is genuinely spiritual, is fluent in perspectives, doesn't mean those perspectives will necessarily come together and detonate our Deity. But The Fountain does.
Just as Aronofsky did with:
Pi, a $60,000 film exploring the awakening to the Great Perfection. It's lead character goes down a rabbit hole that initially appears to be pure cognition, but inevitably morphs into an awakening to the blinding face of God, which tranforms its witness ("my mother told me not to look directly into the Sun, so of course I did).
Requiem For A Dream, a $5 million dollar film that delves deep and dark into our suicidal capacity for addiction, attachment, and misplaced externalized salvation. I've said it before, watching this film left me feeling like a weather front had moved through my torso. Top to bottom, inside to out, this film explored the source of suffering. The cinematic shadow of the over-soul, and a Buddhist Film if there ever was one.
The Fountain is Aronofsky's most ambitious and rewarding film to date. In part because the somewhat sinister atmosphere that permeated both Pi and Requiem has now cracked open, and instead of merely swinging into its opposite (light, love, happiness), Aronofsky has managed to stewerd a much greater treasure: Paradox. The Fountain marks evolution, not into one or the other, but both. Neither. The dazzling, ecstatic conclusion of The Fountain leaves no doubt in the (willing, able) viewer that the Face is none other than our very own, and its Mystery cannot be compressed into any impermanent quality, and yet its Perfection abides in each of them, equally. Most of all I was moved and grateful for the way this is communicated through love, two human beings losing and finding the Way over and over, through each other.
As surely as Thin Red Line, Magnolia, Mullholland Drive, Dancer In The Dark, and others, The Founatin delivers inner Revelation through a masterpiece of exteriors (imagery, cinematography, visual poetry). Some of us may not instantly recognize it, because we are estranged to our own Divinity. Others may think it's not "real" because it can't be summarised succinctly in language. But in this case, that's our shortcoming, not the films.
If I have one wish in writing this review, it's that we the audience will rise to the occassion, and see The Fountain with open heads, open hearts, and a willingness to expose ourselves to its Presence. What level of our Subject are we bringing to the game? Can we abide as our deepest selves for a couple hours, and see what comes through? As the film says, Death is the road to awe. And there is much to be in awe of here. Let's not shrink away from it.