Perks of Taking Shelter
by Toby Woollaston
It been a couple of weeks since my last update. It is the beginning of term and so my focus has shifted towards my thesis and the cinema of Aronofsky. Things might be a little sporadic this year. To that end, I have recently revisited Aronofsky’s Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain. I had forgotten just how good The Fountain is. Perhaps the end is a little overworked, but other than that, it is a masterpiece. I’m starting to snuggle my thoughts into the idea that Aronofsky’s films are examples of “cinema of absent presence”. A concept that I was introduced to in Dillon’s book The Solaris Effect. He examines how Tarkovsky, in his film Solaris, explored the relationship the viewer has with the screen fiction being observed; experiencing a reality, but in fact only observing celluloid. Woody Allen more directly explored similar ideas in The Purple Rose of Cairo and I believe Aronofsky is, perhaps unintentionally, stepping on similar grounds. Four of his five films appear to explore the haves and have-nots of cinema, and this is the direction I seem to be currently heading.
Of other films I have recently seen …
Jeff Nichol’s Take Shelter; I have heard a lot about Jeff Nichols but this is the first film of his that I’ve seen. Michael Shannon does an impressive job playing Curtis, a blue-collar worker who starts to suffer panic attacks resulting in visions and paranoia. The ensuing strained relationship with his wife is equally impressively played by Jessica Chastain. Perhaps a little overdrawn, this film is for the most part a superb and unique portrayal of a very real mental illness. Rating here.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower; “I feel … infinite”, a sentiment expressed by Charlie (played by Logan Lerman), which so aptly describes that feeling of youth. A kind of invincibility that we all felt when we were in that limbo period between child and adult. My brother described Perks as being a current day The Breakfast Club (despite being set in roughly the same era), which tonally describes this film well. There is, however, a lot more going on in this film. Directed and written (both book and screenplay) by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, centers around Charlie. An awkward freshman desperate to fit in, he falls in with a group of empowering but quirky seniors. The film beautifully develops its characters and unfolds Charlie’s darker mysteries with good consideration. I found Perks to be well balanced, really well acted, and for me will probably be the surprise of the year … but to be fair I wasn’t expecting much. Rating here.