Director’s Spotlight: Darren Aronofsky
The idea was to reserve these Director Spotlight pieces for some of biggest names in the business. While Darren Aronofsky – director of this weekend’s Noah – may not exactly fit this label, I thought I should highlight his career for a couple reasons (noted in the Legacy section). To me, it is truly sad that Aronofsky’s name isn’t associated with the greatest in the business.
For cinephiles, I probably don’t need to go through his body of work, but for the rest of you, pay attention. Below is a quick snapshot of one of my Top 5 working directors. Hmm…maybe that should be a list someday.
The 45-year-old director got his start, like many, at a younger age. However, his love for film didn’t takeoff until he attended Harvard University in the early 1990s. There, he majored in Social Anthropology while studying film on the side.
His first film, Pi, which was financed entirely on donations from friends and family, was made with just a $60,000 budget. Although that number may seem large to some, in the film world it is pretty much the equivalent of peanuts. The psychological thriller was entered into the 1999 Sundance Film Festival where it successfully launched Aronofsky’s career. He went on to win the Best Director award there and the film released to critical acclaim and box office success (given the budget of course).
Arofosky’s follow-up film, Requiem for a Dream, probably stands as my personal favorite of his to date (although Black Swan vies for that award). The psychological drug thriller is not the easiest movie to watch, but the unflinching look into the drug world stands as one of the most influential drug abuse movies to date.
The rest of his filmography has been just as divisive. In 2006 he released The Fountain, which is his worst movie according to Rotten Tomatoes (at 51%). Then, he followed that with his best according to Rotten Tomatoes (The Wrestler at 98%). Four years ago, he released another psychological thriller (seeing a trend yet?) in Black Swan.
I’ll go over this a bit more in the “Legacy” section, but Aronofsky has built up his reputation through a series of great movies. If you haven’t checked them out, I’d suggest a marathon before this weekend. That is, of course, if you can handle it.
6: Total feature films directed by Aronofsky (if you include Noah)
5: Films Aronofsky has been credited as a writer (including Below, a movie he also produced)
4: Number of unreleased short films created by Aronofsky (all before 1994)
3: Number of original films by Aronofsky (Pi, The Fountain, and The Wrestler)
2: Academy Award nominations (Best Director for Black Swan and Best Picture for The Fighter, where he was credited as Executive Producer)
1: Number of “Unrated” films (Requiem for a Dream wouldn’t change a graphic sex scene to get it an R rating)
80.2%: Average Rotten Tomatoes score for his films (excluding Noah)
$329 million: Highest approximate box office total (Black Swan)
$160 million: Budget for Noah (compared to a $60,000 budget for Pi)
15: Aronofsky’s ranking in a Best Working Directors list according to Entertainment Weekly
As his filmography shows, Aronofsky tends to have movies that are either love-them or hate-them. As you can tell by this piece, I am in the former category and find his films to be highly engaging. This love-it-or-hate-it aspect that has followed his career looks to be the case (although the movie still hasn’t released) for Noah.
His directing style – one that relies on fun camera work and snap-editing – makes his films unique and relevant to the reoccurring themes.
Speaking of reoccurring themes, expect Aronofsky to be known for his exploration in the drug world and the human psyche. This could be why he is such a divisive director (which I find to be, quite frankly, stupid).
Whether you love him or hate him, you should at least appreciate what he has done for the psychological thriller genre and film as a whole. That, my friends, is why I urge you to check out his entire body of work.
What are your thoughts about Darren Aronofsky? Chime in below.
Follow me on Twitter @jmacle