Well, thank you sir, You have now successfully constructed two of the best movies of my lifetime, two films that I absolutely love and respect but alas, will most likely never be able to watch again.
First it was REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. My god, by the end of that movie, which I watched by myself in the wee hours of the morning eight years ago, I was convinced of two things for sure:
1) Requiem is one of the most important films ever made
2) No matter how much I loved the technique, sound, style, etc of Aronofsky’s story* I would never never NEVER be able to watch it again.
It fucked me up that much.
Seriously, I remember setting out to view Requiem with a boatload of ‘you better prepare yourself’ type warnings about how disturbing it was following me in. Because of this I think I hesitated on watching it after buying it* for a while. Then finally one particularly brave night I sat down with a one hitter and some beer to conquer what had become an almost mythic thing by that time. I remember thinking, about 45 minutes in, ‘This isn’t so bad’. Of course by the end of the film I was barely able to sleep for the rest of the night and had some of the most horrible nightmares of my life when I finally did. I’d never exorcise Requiem from The Collection because I feel it belongs there, I just don’t think I’ll have the guts to ever watch it again. Falls just shy of Irreversible and Cannibal Holocaust as the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen, the difference between it and those two movies of course being Requiem has a reason to exist, Irreversible and Holocaust are simply exercises in voyeuristic cruelty**.
Now with THE WRESTLER Aronofsky has crafted something almost as disturbing and hard to watch as Requiem, but for different reasons. Mickey Rourke, in my opinion has earned the right to maybe be a little full of himself with his performance here as Randy the ‘Ram’ – the way he dramatizes every muscle movement, cough and every tear, without overacting. The documentary-style camera work helps this, letting us look in on Rourke’s character’s heart-breaking performance in ‘quiet windows’ -whether it be laying on the bed reading through glasses he clearly hates but has made peace with, scooping potato salad into plastic deli cartons or trying to convince himself that he is not a no-good loser by trying to convince his estranged daughter the same. When Rourke cries you feel it – he’s immersed and really fucking crying. Myself, I felt like crying almost the entire length of the film. There were so many winces, so many of those, ‘Oh god no don’t do that you awkward fool‘ moments that I found myself squirming in my seat or bouncing my leg up and down pretty much constantly.
The Wrestler is a tale of humanity but not the kind we’re used to. This is the underbelly of the glitz and fadable glamor of one tiny corner of the entertainment industry. This is the humanity of a person that has for twenty years existed in the limbo of passing celebrity (used here as a noun) – a non-person, an icon our culture once celebrated but now sweeps under the rug. It is through this ‘naked camera’ that Aronofsky shows us the reality behind the icons we choose to imitate, celebrate and denigrate. I for one never thought I’d give much of a fuck about anyone from wrestling, other than when something bad happens to them and I think, in passing, ‘serves ya right douchey’. Well, now I feel the connection between myself and the people who arise to millions and power for reasons that, in my own jaded view of things, don’t amount to anything but further certainty that we idolize the worst aspects of our kind**. Would I mock or make fun of the old long-haired guy dancing to Ratt at the other end of the bar? Yep. But now, maybe not so much. Or at least not without thinking, ‘hey, there’s probably a pretty good story behind that guy, and that makes him human and that makes him worthy, at least until proven otherwise, of my respect.’
In closing let me just predict/hope:
Best film: The Wrestler
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke
* I liked Pi so much I bought Requiem unseen
** That scene with the turtle in Cannibal will NEVER leave my brain.
*** A modern example of this is paris hilton. Burn paris, burn