Darren Aronofsky (A) has been f%$king with people’s mind since 1998, starting with the black and white psychological thriller Pi. Heavy stuff to say the least. Eye-grilling sun exposure leads to protagonist’s habitual headaches and obsession with nature’s numeric patterns. Pursued by a group Hasidic Jews who believe that the sun, i.e., God deposited a magic number in the sun-sufferer’s head. And an unforgettably intense conclusion involving one man and a power drill. With Pi, A begins his relationship with Clint Mansell. The composer scored A’s acclaimed Requiem for a Dream, producing the iconic “Lux Aeterna” track which would become trailer-bait for The Two Towers, Sunshine, and The Da Vinci Code.
A is for atmosphere. And boy, does A know how to use it. A has a relatively short list of films to his name; but every outing had something, if not everything, going for it. Requiem was the best, most horrifying Scared Straight video you ever saw. The Fountain asked a lot, but gave too. It’s only a recent development that Aranofsky seems to be directing every movie ever. 2008’s The Wrestler was the first film where A took a step back from the hyperrealities he was known for creating and instead put us in the company of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an incomprehensibly sympathetic and raw Mickey Rourke. A saw some gold that year: a Globe (Rourke’s for best actor) and the Venice Film Festival’s highest accolade, The Golden Lion.
Whether blowing our minds or making understated melodramas, A has proven himself time and time again to be a master auteur and sits comfortably among the best independent film makers out there. But then there’s the news of A’s deals to direct Wolverine, rumours about a Preacher adaptation, and potential Pitt-starrer, Tiger. Not to mention the opportunities that have already come and gone, the would-be Superman reboot and Tales from the Gangster Squad. It’s a tired idiom, but Hollywood’s knocking and it’s all down to one little bird du noir.
Black Swan looks to become one of few thrillers to make the Oscars shortlist for Best Picture, and his leading lady is the subject of a ton of Best Actress buzz. A directs Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises), and Mila Kunis as people whose minds get f%$ed with. Visually, A has never disappointed, and if Portman turns into a swan as rumoured, the effect can only be spectacular. A has played with the ancient Greek archetype of metamorphosis before, turning Weisz into a tree, and class-act Jennifer Connolly into a ram-ready prostitute. Dude’s a magician. Portman deserves the chance to play a part that puts Queen Amidala straight out of our minds and I have no doubt that her stereotyped manic-pixie-dream-girl image will only add to her performance as the fragile ballerina Nina. After making the rounds at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals, the critics are giving this one an A.
Black Swan doesn`t drop until early December, but it’s already proving to be A‘s ticket to mainstream audiences, and maybe Oscar gold. Swan will inevitably receive technical and artistic production nods, while Portman continues to make buzz with her performance
, now potentially the favourite for the lead in Cuaron’s Gravity. Mansell’s Black Swan score may well be the best of the year, featuring his own orchestral arrangements of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as well as modern interprations by dubstep artists. Swan’s genreic rival, Inception, also has a heart-pounding soundtrack, but one doubts Mansell’s will get the same mocking reception that Hans Zimmer recently received from the boys at South Park. Black Swan promises to be a more graceful movie than Nolan’s sometimes clunky dream vision. If Academy voters have to choose between the similarly-styled directors, my money’s on A.