Radically Different Films – Part Six

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I’m in a great mood tonight, so the next installment of radically different cinema needs to be BAZ: Baz Luhrmann. Or at least I’ll start off rattling off titles like Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge, and The Great Gatsby.Baz has style up the yin yang. His films feature elaborate production design, cinematic staging, music video sequences and lots of dancing. He’s the proverbial “one louder” when it comes to production, color and stylization. Plus he’s an Aussie.

Strictly Ballroom blasted Baz across the world, a comedy about formal dancing, freedom and romance. I’d nearly forgotton about this farce when one of my theater professors went and analyzed it in class. It’s a fantastic film, and it doesn’t forego the drama just because it’s a comedy. Like all of Luhrmann’s films, it’s got all the bases covered.

I’m not sure how well Romeo and Juliet holds up. It’s done with modern visuals but with the original dialogue. It may be a bit difficult to follow, and the characters don’t necessarily reflect the originals. There’s an incongruity with this kind of retelling.

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Moulin Rouge is probably the most Baz film ever to be. A “spectacular spectacular,” this film combines the laughs, the drama, the music and revelry all wrapped up in theater and reinterpreted modern songs. I suppose a lot has to do with whether you love or hate Nicole Kidman, for whatever odd preconceptions, but I’m of the love camp. The Moulin Rouge club approaches Rocky Horror absurdness, but the story is great.

Which brings us to Gatsby, not a great film, but probably a hell of a lot better than the last dvd you saw. Gatsby was fleshed out beyond the original, and the usual Baz musicality and orchestration made this an unmissable, immersive event. I do wish he had taken more of an interest in Daisy’s character (Baz, not Gatsby), and so points were lost there.

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But what about Darren Aronofsky?” you say.

Correct, I did promise to touch on Aronofsky’s career.

Starting with PI, in 1998, we immediately knew something was up with this guy. Aronofsky’s obsession is for characters who go all the way, unstoppable, driven, maniacal even to the point of self-destruction. Each of his films has featured a main character who was beyond normal, an obsessed quester.

In Pi, the main guy quests to know the mind of God, literally, no matter what it takes.

In Requiem for a Dream, the main guy is a drug addict who will do anything to continue his self-destruction. This film is up on Hulu for free (at the moment) but you’ll have to endure the ads, which is certainly not optimal and not the way to watch it. But that’s up to you.

In The Wrestler, Randy the Ram will get back in the wrestling ring even if it kills him, literally.

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In The Fountain, the last man on earth will bring the Tree of Life to its rebirth, somewhere beyond the stars. The two lovers have a connection that spans centuries, and it’s a trippy multi-dimensional story that does surprise.

In Black Swan, a mentally damaged ballerina will go mad if she must in order to dance one of the most demanding roles in ballet.

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Aronofsky also shot Noah. I guess he’s the granddaddy of obsessive-compulsives.

See this post on Aronofsky’s concept of “subjective filmmaking” to get a sense of where he’s coming from. There is also a linked “master class” interview to watch.


Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | …| NEW! Part Seven


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