A long time ago I had another blog. It was an outlet for me to write about film. That blog saw me press accredited for events like the EIFF and GFF as well as making one or two television appearances to talk about new releases. At one point I saw and reviewed more than one film a day for an entire year. I also interviewed a few actors and directors about their work. Additionally I’ve undertaken courses on the cinema of Hitchcock, Ozu and Kurosawa and also on propaganda film of WWII.
The reason I mention all of that is to highlight the fact that I’m not, as someone on Twitter suggested about people who hated “mother!” at the screening they attended, just “woefully dense” but am, in fact, fairly cineliterate.
Now to the subject at hand.
Darren Aronofsky is a director who has managed to pull off one of the greatest con jobs in the history of cinema. Thanks to a genuinely original debut that hinted at genius he has been afforded a status far beyond his actual talent.
“Pi” is a gloriously surreal and beautifully shot film. It deserves all the praise it receives. A debut that pointed to great things in the future. It also cost about 36 pence to make. Delivering a critical success with a film as peculiar as that saw the studios happy to bankroll his next project. That project was “Requiem for a Dream” which the critics again adored and has become a cult film…but closer inspection reveals a largely hollow film that relies on shocks to cover up the lack of anything of real worth.
“The Fountain” was, until this weekend, the worst film Aronofsky had made. To be kind to it I’ll call it a mess. That’s being generous to the film and cruel to messes.
“The Wrestler” was a fairly dull film that was memorable only for the shot in the arm it gave to it’s lead. Apart from that it was filmmaking by numbers. Then came the hysterical, in all meanings of the word, “Black Swan”. A film that tried to blend the body horror of Cronenburg with “The Red Shoes” and ended up not doing either very well. Also Vincent Cassell!
Then there was “Noah” where dear Darren took the most ridiculous Genesis story and mafe it seem plausible by comparison with his telling of it. It was a really dreadful film. Nobody enjoyed it. It remains the only film I’ve ever walked out of…and I wasn’t alone.
Now we have “mother!” where a director with nothing to say and no original ideas decides he has everything to say about everything and is going to say it by ripping off dozens of better films and directors.
Let’s deal with the films/directors that Aronofsky plagiarizes here first; “The Shining” (frustrated writer, haunted house, nature as master, fragile woman and Aronofsky apparently treated Lawrence very poorly on set…a nod to Kubricks treatment of Shelley Duvall), Polanski in both tone and colour pallet (Rosemarys Baby obviously and Repulsion too), David Lynch and specifically “Inland Empire”, Cronenburg (body horror), Deodato (specifically the “Cannibal” movies), Von Triers “Antichrist” and lots of others too.
Talent borrows of course and genius steals but this is neither the work of a talented man or a genius…its the work of a thief. A thief who can see the price of everything and the value of nothing (thanks Oscar) and it shows.
Memorably Jennifer Lawrence talked of the film as some sort of comment on the environmental crisis…the house is the planet, humans bollocks everything up. The truth is that’s only part of it. What’s really going on is that Aronofsky is trying, again, to present a Genesis tale. A more qualified person might go so far as to suggest that Aronofsky himself is suffering some sort of God delusion. The “poet” (Javier Bardem) is suffering from writers block while his beautiful and much younger wife (the “mother!” of the title played by Lawrence) rebuilds his family home after a terrible fire. Then some other stuff happens that’s too pretentious and arch to bother boring you with but the result of which is that Lawrence goes a bit mad and then falls pregnant…an event she can announce less than 24 hours after having sex (arguably against her will) with the poet.
Up until this point the film is mainly a homage to Von Triers “Melancholia”…at least it’s first act with nods to all the other things I’ve already mentioned. It’s dull but has a sinister edge to it all. Rather than let that sinister element guide us down a conventional horror route Aronofsky decides to go somewhere else. That could have been a good thing had the somewhere else not been up his own arse.
The film descends into a ridiculous series of nonsensical set pieces all of which are rich with “meaning”…that’s if you are the sort of person willing to excuse any old shit as having “meaning” as long as it’s being served up by a “credible” source. Sadly Aronofsky lost his credibility at around about the time the final credits rolled on “Pi”.
This is the emperor’s new clothes…forget the wordy and worthy reviews from the broadsheets who get paid by studios to be kind about things like this and do yourself a favour; buy a ticket for “IT” instead.