So to Aronofsky. π (or Pi, 1999) is his first full feature film. Like his contemporary Christopher Nolan's first, it's a black and white film which is cheaper - essential for that first change-from-the-back-of-sofa budget - as well as all kinds of serious. It's not some sort of postgraduate experimental caprice though. The narrative is coherent throughout and the style hangs of it, not the other way around.
Requiem For A Dream (released hot on the the heels of π in 2000) is, stylistically, more of the same. However, a bigger budget means an outstanding principal ensemble, location shooting and more ambitious - though not 'splashier' - special effects. The dank surreality-creep of David Lynch is ever clearer, especially in the strangely eclectic soundtrack which seems to occupy some strange diegesis halfway between the action and the production. The key to the film is the marriage of Aronofsky's frenzied, claustrophobic design & editing and a tour-de-force central performance from the celebrated survivor of The Exorcist, Ellen Burstyn, once again spending a feature film resisting a demon. I feel ready, if not prepared for Black Swan tomorrow.
Last night I watched the BBC's flagship film programme, Film 2011 (as it's now been called for three weeks). The newish show has come under fire, largely, I suspect, through the trauma of novelty. No longer is it one man addressing a camera but a young woman in conversation on a sofa. Luckily, that woman is Claudia Winkleman, already well thought of for her palatable cultural criticism on Radio 2, charming her views down the tube for all her slightly frenzied, post-Davina McCall delivery. She has a regular right hand man in the film critic Danny Leigh. Leigh is, for me, the real meat of the show. With the remit to introduce and entertain absorbed by Winkleman, he's in a position to be sober and detailed - and opinionated - about the films the show features. He's erudite, well-read and speaks well (and may have changed my mind about giving NEDS a miss). I'll have more to say on critics and broadcasting (I hope) come Friday.