Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in a scene from "Mother!"
Just out of nowhere came a brand new Darren Aronofsky's movie titled "Mother!". Prior to its premiere at this year's Venice Film Festival, the movie was heavily shrouded in secrecy. At this age of internet and social media where (almost) nothing is sacred anymore, you have to applaud Aronofsky's ability to keep "Mother!" under tight lock and key.
With "Mother!" slated to creep into our local cinemas this month, let's take a look back at every Darren Aronofsky's past movies, ranked from worst to best.
Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in a scene from "The Fountain".
This sci-fi drama, which tells of a research scientist named Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman) struggling to find a cure for his cancer-stricken wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz), is an ambitious epic divided into three parallel stories: the 16th-century Spain and Central America, the 21st-century United States, and the 26th-century outer-space. Whereas Aronofsky's convoluted screenplay that deals with past, present and future is admirable, the overall execution itself is haphazard. Perhaps it has something to do with the budget that was slashed from its initial USD 70 million to a mere USD 35 million. Not to mention it went through numerous cuts and major rewrites that caused original stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett to quit the project due to creative differences. But for all the troubled production behind the scenes, "The Fountain" remains a visually-stunning piece of work blessed with James Chinlund's eye-catching production values and Clint Mansell's mournful orchestral score. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz both give affecting performances, while Aronofsky's direction evokes some of the metaphysical science fiction feel and look of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968).
Russell Crowe plays the title character in "Noah".
Darren Aronofsky's first stab at a big-scale Hollywood production was a worldwide box-office hit, but his Biblical re-imagining of "Noah" was famously met with critical disdain due to the whitewashing of its cast and some of its unfaithful approach that strays from the Book of Genesis. While the movie is short of emotional underpinning between the characters portrayed here, it's hard to deny that Aronofsky knows how to create a stunning picture best experienced on the big screen. Aided with his frequent cinematographer Matthew Libatique, "Noah" boasts some of the most spectacular visuals ever seen in the recent memory (the flood sequence quickly comes to mind).
Sean Gullette as the reclusive mathematician, Max Cohen in "Pi".
Shot on a shoestring budget of USD 68,000, Darren Aronofsky's directorial debut tells of a reclusive mathematician named Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) who tries to decipher the meaning of a certain random number, while finding himself entangled in some kind of conspiracy. Despite its budget constraint, Aronofsky shows his unique sense of direction in crafting a paranoid thriller that feels like a cross between David Lynch and David Cronenberg's works. His decision to shoot "Pi" in grainy black-and-white cinematography gives the movie an eeriely surrealistic feel. Coupled with Clint Mansell's mesmerising score and Sean Gullette's haywire performance as Max Cohen, "Pi" is no doubt a promising debut for Aronofsky.
Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly in a scene from "Requiem For A Dream".
This is the movie that made Darren Aronofsky a cult favourite among many genre fans. "Requiem For A Dream" tells a story about four addicts (Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly and Ellen Burstyn) who all end up making poor choices where each of them descend into ill-fated outcomes. Aronofsky's thematic subjects on drug abuse and pill addiction (in this case, Burstyn's addiction to harmful diet pills) is told in a harrowing and sometimes darkly funny approach with lots of vivid imagery. Thanks to Aronofsky's imaginary mind, he employs various camera tricks that mimics the intoxicating feel and look of the drug experience. The movie also doesn't shy away from showing the principal characters' path to degradations as well as its ugly consequences of the aforementioned subject matters. Case in point is the climactic moments involving Connelly's willingness to sell herself as a sex slave for a quick fix and the icky sight of Leto's gangrene-induced arm. Ellen Burstyn, who plays Leto's weight-obsessed mother, lands a memorable Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in "The Wrestler".
"The Wrestler" is akin to what David Lynch used to eschew his usual surrealistic self in favour for a more straightforward direction seen in 1999's "The Straight Story". Aronofsky's fourth feature marks a radical departure that is non-flashy but a decidedly small-scale character-driven drama about a washed-up wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), who is coping with a subdued life while trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). Aronofsky proves he can venture out of his comfort zone by handling a conventional filmmaking approach seen in "The Wrestler". At the heart of this poignant drama is Mickey Rourke, whose titular performance perfectly reflects his own dwindling career. Once an 80s Hollywood poster boy, thanks to his success in "9 1/2 Weeks" (1986), Rourke was on top of his world back then, but his career hit rock bottom after a long bout of abuse and addiction. Thanks to Aronofsky's unvarnished direction, Rourke is given enough room to showcase his vulnerable self that is both believable and heartbreaking at the same time. "The Wrestler" earned Rourke a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actor, a category in which he sadly lost to Sean Penn for "Milk".
Natalie Portman plays the ambitious ballerina, Nina in "Black Swan".
Following his awards-worthy success via "The Wrestler", Darren Aronofsky returns to his former self that first established him as one of the most provocative filmmakers of today's generation. "Black Swan", which centres on an ambitious ballerina named Nina (Natalie Portman) who gradually finds herself spiralling down into a state of psychological breakdown, is a vividly-realised drama about the cutthroat world of ballet dancing. Aronofsky brilliantly mimics both Nina's internal and external struggles by employing an urgent camerawork shot in handheld style like a semi-documentary. His overall direction is equally compelling as he exudes a sense of macabre dread throughout the movie, while his sheer influences of David Cronenberg's body horror and Roman Polanski's psychological decline undertones are well-integrated here. Of course, most of us who watched "Black Swan" would remember Natalie Portman's emotionally-penetrating performance that won her the coveted Oscar for Best Actress. "Black Swan" is no doubt a high point for Aronofsky's career that remains as his best work to date.