The Sundance Film Festival isn’t just a film festival, but a look into the future of cinema. As we travel to Park City Utah this year, I thought it would be nice to take a look back at the last 30 years of the festival. Today I begin part one of my two-day, two-part look at the best movies of Sundance Film Festival history. In part one I will focus on the first 15 years of the festival* as the small independent film festival grew into the launching pad for new filmmakers and ground zero for the independent movie boom of the 1990’s.
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Darren Aronofsky‘s films, especially his earlier efforts Pi and Requiem fora Dream, contain tremendous sound design. Editor Kogonada has put together a one minute supercut showcasing the sounds that compliment the visuals of his films. Watch it now embedded after the jump.
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Darren Aronofsky gives an insightful interview to our friends at MakingOf about how he got into filmmaking, created his first film, submitted movies to film festivals before the wonders of the internet, and the importance of originality and creating a story that comes from within. Watch the video embedded after the jump.
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Last month, I had another chance to sit down and talk with Darren Aronofsky, the director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain, about his new film The Wrestler. We’re going to call this part five because it continues the series of interviews regarding The Wrestler that began at the Toronto International Film Festival (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). You can read the fourth part, which was on the site yesterday, at this link. In the fifth and final part of our Wrestler series, I talk to Aronofsky about 3D, IMAX, High Definition filmmaking, The Fighter, Robocop, Watchmen, hopes for a 5.1 audio remix of Pi and more.
Q: The crumbling ballroom, when and how did you find that place?
Darren Aronofsky: We were scouting Asbury Park. I was like Evan Rachel Wood in the movie. I looked through the crack. I said, “What the hell’s that space?” I could see it through the crack. I was, “Let’s get in there.” We actually never scouted it until we actually shot it. We didn’t have that type of budget. I saw it and was like, “Get me permission to get in there. That’s the location. Let’s get in there.” On the day of we had permission to go in. I think actually Bruce [Springsteen] might own it. I think he’s bought up, through a corporation, a lot of Asbury Park and they’re redoing it. I don’t know. I’m not sure. You may have to fact check that. That’s what I’ve heard. It’s an old casino. It says casino on the outside. I don’t know if it was a gambling casino or what it was, but it’s just this beautiful space.
Q: It looks like a ballroom.
Darren Aronofsky: Yes. That’s why we improvised the dance. I walked in there and I said, “Mickey, are you going to ask Evan to dance?” Mickey doesn’t like to dance. I was like, “Are you going to waltz? You’re going to waltz. You’re going to waltz here.” He’s like, “I can’t waltz.” I’m like, “I’ll teach you how to waltz.” So there’s a video of me teaching Mickey how to waltz, which is a pretty embarrassing video. I said, “Let’s just give it a shot and see what happens.” I wanted something. It was very much like that scene in Requiem when they break into the building and they go to the roof and they set off the alarm and all that stuff. In the script it was actually, I think it was a snowball fight they had, something silly. I think originally in The Wrestler script they were going to go play skee-ball. Then we realized Asbury Park doesn’t have skee-ball. Then we turned it into a snowball fight. Then it didn’t snow. I was like, “Okay, they need to do something that’s kind of silly and endearing.” That night we saw that space and I said, “All right. They’ll just break in here and do something illegal and then do something touching.” I remember afterwards, Evan walked away and she was sobbing. She had some personal connection with her own life, which is her story to tell. But she really resisted at the beginning. But then afterwards really was glad that she did it. Those things happen.
Q: It seems like much of the process of making this film was you making Mickey do things that he doesn’t want to do and laughing about it.
Darren Aronofsky: There’s a certain amount of that. Mickey is definitely a coaster. He’ll put his feet up on the table and just sort of– He’s like that kid in high school who did no work and got B+’s the whole time, because he’s got so much talent that he’s able to do it. Yes, it was pushing Mickey a lot. My biggest accomplishment on the film was that he wears no sunglasses in the entire movie. Every day Mickey showed up with a pair of sunglasses and it was about convincing him that they don’t want to see the sunglasses. “Mickey, people want to look at your eyes. That’s why they’re paying money. That’s why they’re here.” He knows that. He’s so much armor and he’s so soft inside. Did you meet him yet?
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Last month, I had another chance to sit down and talk with Darren Aronofsky, the director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain, about his new film The Wrestler. Part of the interview was a small two-person roundtable, so some of the answers might repeat some of the material we covered in Toronto interview (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Darren decided to give up 20 minutes of his lunch break to continue our talk 1:1. We’re going to call this part four because it continues the series of interviews regarding The Wrestler. We’ll have the last one or two parts (I’m still not sure if the remainder will be split) in the next couple days.
Q: I hope this is not a stupid question. Imagine you’re a film critic and you’ve seen Darren Aronofsky’s new film, The Wrestler. It’s great but you’re not quite sure how it’s fitting in in the grand scheme of the Darren Aronofsy touch. How would you fit that in if you were in a film critic position?
Darren Aronofsky: For me, I talked to Peter a little bit about this. The first three films were definitely a chapter for me. I don’t know, maybe it’s a new beginning. Some people have sort of talked about thematic connections between them. I think they’re there, not that I was that conscious of them, but some people bring them up and I’m like hmmm… that’s pretty interesting.
Q: I think there’ a couple of shots I–
Darren Aronofsky: Not even shots, but like even themes about the characters seem to connect to people. I got a lot of characters falling at the end or something like that. I don’t know. I just want to keep challenging myself. I think that this was definitely a real big risk for me in a lot of ways. In some ways it wasn’t. It was such a small film. But in other ways I was just trying to do something completely different and working with a completely different team of filmmakers and working in a completely different way of approaching filmmaking. It just kept it interesting for me. Now I’m kind of excited to keep challenging myself in new ways and seeing what happens. I think it’s important. You’ve got to keep it interesting somehow. Otherwise, I’m going to end up just hanging out or fishing or something.
Q: Your first two films are very stylistic. Not to say that The Fountain wasn’t. But it seems like in the last two you’ve become more minimalist or possibly more traditional in your style. Was that a specific choice on your part?
Darren Aronofsky: I think the first two films were exercises in subjective filmmaking and pushing that to the extreme, trying to figure out every possible technique to put an audience member into the characters’ heads. Pi was constructed that way because I had a limited budget and that became kind of the strategy of how to turn that limited budget into a strength. It was to really cut back on cutting away to the bad guys and really making a whole visual language that was all about pushing the audience into Max Cohen’s head. Requiem, a big reason that I was attracted to it is when I read the novel, I realized that Selby’s a very subjective writer and constantly going into fantasy and to dream. It would allow me to kind of expand on the thing I was doing in Pi, but with a bigger budget and color and with more time and with four characters. So when I read that opening scene of the novel and I saw the mom locked in the closet and the kid stealing the TV, I instantly had this idea of a split screen sort of showing the audience, “Oh, we’re going to see two very personal stories here from two different perspectives.” Then eventually it opened up into four perspectives. They were really exercises and really pushing subjective filmmaking. When I got to The Fountain, it was kind of a transition. I was definitely done with that as an exploration and also the subject matter of The Fountain was much more– It was a romance and it allowed me to move more towards the objective, although I still kind of played a little bit with getting into Tommy’s head and into his reality. It was kind of a transition and kind of expanding my style, I guess. I think getting to The Wrestler was really just going in the completely opposite direction. Basically, the film is 98 percent objective. It’s like a documentary. I call it proactive documentary, because I think in a real documentary everything is reactive. If you’re watching Cops and a guy runs away and then a second later the camera chases after the guy and goes after him, we didn’t have that second delay. We kind of knew what the scene was about and we knew where Mickey or Marisa was going to go. So we were able to choreograph that. We kind of had this proactive style where we were working with the actor to give a documentary feeling, allow realism to happen, but we were ready for it. There’s no really internal sound stuff, except for maybe two or three times I used it, which was like during the heart attacks and when he’s walking to the deli counter and the crowd comes up. Otherwise, besides that, there’s never a personal sound beat. I kind of really didn’t want to do that, but I couldn’t resist. It’s actually a little weak. People responded to those moments, I think
Q: Maybe it works that there’s only two of them.
Darren Aronofsky: Yes, but I’m a very orthodox filmmaker in the sense that I try to be very strict with my rules, because I think it adds to the language. I think sometimes it’s okay to bend the rules for a good moment. It’s just a growth. I don’t know how it answers your question, but [my] style is changing.
Q: I thought you were going to say that Mickey Rourke wouldn’t let you strap a camera to him. (joking
Darren Aronofsky: He probably would have. I didn’t do that in The Fountain, because I was just kind of done with that. Every music video and commercial ended up doing it after us, so it was like enough.
More after the jump.
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