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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Harry: What's the big deal about being on television? Those pills you're on are going to kill ya before you ever get on, for Christ's sake.
Sara: What is the big deal? I'm somebody now, Harry. Everybody likes me. Soon, millions of people will see me, and they'll all like meŠ. It's a reason to get up in the morning. It's a reason to lose weight; to fit in a red dress. It's a reason to smile. It makes tomorrow all right. What have I got, Harry, huh? Why should I even make the bed or wash the dishes? I do them, but why should I? I'm alone. Your father's gone. You're gone. I got no one to care for. What have I got, Harry? I'm lonely. I'm old!

- Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer  
Published: May 29, 2001

Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto
Other Stars: Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (frequent drug use, explicit sexual content)
Run Time: 01h:41m:03s
Release Date: May 22, 2001
UPC: 012236115670
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+AA+ A

DVD Review

I love my job. I really love my job. I get DVDs for free. As you may have read in my theatrical review, Requiem For A Dream was my favorite film of 2000, so I'm ecstatic to be able to review it again on disc. After watching it, I realized something: I'm addicted to DVDs, and indeed to movies in general. Such is the power of this film that it allowed me to analyze my own life in a way that I could not before. While I won't curb my addiction, hopefully the realization alone will prevent me from going over the deep end. I now see that the thrill I get, when the title card for Requiem slams onto the screen, is my cinematic version of a heroin high, and the whole rest of the film is my overdose. The fact that I've watched the film four times now shows the fear I have of going through withdrawal.

Requiem for a Dream is the story of four characters and their struggle with addiction. Harry Goldfarb (Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Connelly), and his friend Tyrone (Wayans) have a dream. If they can sell enough drugs, they can make enough money to buy a pound of pure heroin. Then, they can live out the rest of their lives, as Harry puts it, "on easy street." Meanwhile, Harry's mother, Sara (Burstyn), gets a call telling her that she will be on television. In anticipation of this event, she tries on the red dress she wore to Harry's high school graduation. Finding that she has put on too much weight to fit into it, she goes on a diet. Unable to stay on the diet, she turns to diet pills.

Requiem is not a drug film. It is a film about addiction. Sara is addicted to TV, to coffee, to food. A few of the characters are addicted to sex. In the forward to the latest edition of the novel,Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky describes addiction as a character in the story. That is why, after seeing the film, I recognized my own addiction to movies. The film looks at the deeper nature of addiction in all of its forms, not just in connection with drugs.

Darren Aronofsky blasted into the cinematic world with his 1998 release, Pi. Exhilarating and innovative, Pi showed Aronofsky to be a director of great promise. Requiem for a Dream fulfills that promise. Aronofsky uses the techniques created for Pi (such as a camera attached to the actor's body) and with them creates an entirely different atmosphere. If Pi is Aronofsky's Eraserhead, then Requiem is his Blue Velvet, and Aronofsky graduates from a hot newcomer to a truly great director.

Part of what makes Requiem so great is the writing. In the commentary for the film, Aronofsky said that he began reading the novel, but couldn't finish it—not because it was bad, but because it talked about the same things that he had been trying to talk about, and did so much better. And the screenplay by Aronofsky and the novel's author, Hubert Selby Jr., is also more fleshed-out than Pi, which had some loose ends that were mostly forgotten through breakneck pacing. Requiem is a less complex story that doesn't leave many loose ends hanging around. You understand what is happening at each moment, and how each character got to where they are.

The performances in this film are powerful. In my theatrical review, I said that Jared Leto's wasn't as good as Jennifer Connelly's or Marlon Wayans'; how wrong I was. Watching it again, I realize that Leto is the strongest performer of the three. Jennifer Connelly, meanwhile, has really grown as an actress. You won't believe that this is the same girl from Labyrinth, playing Marion. You can read the emotion on her face, but it seems sincere, not put on. Marlon Wayans is the surprise of the trio. With only comedy under his belt, it's a pleasure to see him taking on a dramatic role and turning in a solid performance. I always like to see good actors branching out, and this is just the start for Wayans.

Of course, the best actor in the film is Ellen Burstyn. In what Roger Ebert called an "egoless" performance, Burstyn completely sublimates herself and becomes Sara Goldfarb. This is one of the great performances in all of film history. I found myself either crying or on the verge of tears just by watching her; she is so subtle, yet direct and powerful. Her performance in Requiem is the kind that artists strive their entire lives for. What we have here is just a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Another crucial aspect here is the music. The film is, after all, a requiem, and a requiem without music is like a story without visuals. Clint Mansell composed the score, and the Kronos Quartet performs it. This is one of the most effective and haunting film scores I've heard in a long time. I bought the soundtrack, something I almost never do, and have listened to it innumerable times. The way it works with the film raises the emotional stakes without manipulating the audience.

While too honest and harrowing for some, I recommend everyone who wants to see a meaningful film with great acting, writing, directing, and music to buy Requiem For A Dream

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Artisan brings us Requiem For A Dream in an anamorphic widescreen transfer that faithfully reproduces the film's color palette. This is a high detail transfer. You can see the sweat on people's skin, the sheen from lights, the objects in the smallest nooks and crannies. Black levels are deep, and there are no artifacts to be found. There are small instances of dirt on the transfer, but they come and go so fast that they're hardly noticeable and in no way distract from the viewing experience. This is the film as it's meant to be seen, and I'm glad Artisan did it right.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Requiem For A Dream has one of the best 5.1 mixes I've ever heard on DVD. The score is powerful and dynamic, while the surrounds are aggressively used. For some reason the dialogue seems a bit drowned out at the beginning, but once the credit sequence ends it's no longer a problem. The subtlest sounds are audible, and the whole mix is highly directional. This mix adds greatly to the enjoyment of the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 33 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 TV Spots/Teasers
9 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
2 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Darren Aronofsky, Matthew Libatique (Director of Photography)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:29m:20s

Extra Extras:
  1. Director's commentary for deleted scenes
  2. Insert booklet with articles by Harry Knowles and Darren Aronofsky
Extras Review: This DVD is packed. We have a great commentary by Darren Aronofsky. He is engaging and has tons of interesting stories regarding the shooting, the genesis of the film, the actors, and more. I recommend giving this one a listen. There's a second commentary by director of photography Matthew Libatique, which focuses more on the technical aspects, but is actually just as interesting as Aronofsky's. It's a useful tool to learn about lighting and camera techniques. While Aronofsky's comments are better for the general fan, anyone interested in how films are really made should check out Libatique's commentary.

There's a 35-minute making-of documentary shot by a member of the crew, so it gets better behind-the-scenes footage than the normal fluff piece. The whole thing is narrated by Aronofsky, who offers a lot of information while also being very funny. There's also a twenty-minute interview with Hubert Selby, Jr., conducted by none other than Ellen Burstyn. Selby is an interesting guy; personable, yet a bit scary. Through the interview both Selby and Burstyn tell of their personal experiences in life and about the film as well. My only problem is the low fidelity and the fact that it cuts off at a point in the interview where Selby was really getting energetic. Although it ends abruptly, what footage there is amounts to a great interview. There's also a five-minute featurette about how Aronofsky shot the "Sara on speed fixes up apartment" scene, which is actually covered in more detail in the making-of.

There are nine deleted scenes on the disc. Actually, there are only six deleted scenes. There are two outtakes and one extended take. None of these are particularly interesting, and it's easy to see why they were cut. The director gives commentary for all, but since most of the scenes are very short, he doesn't get to say much, and what he does offer isn't illuminating in the slightest. Also, the audio and video quality of the first six scenes are terrible.

The disc has fairly in-depth cast and crew information and filmographies. There is a theatrical teaser and a trailer, both anamorphically enhanced, as well as two letterboxed TV spots. I'd also like to point out that this disc has one of the most inventive and appropriate menus of any DVD I've seen. I've heard that some people who hadn't seen the film before buying the DVD were initially perplexed and confused. So folks, don't worry, you've got the right disc, and the menu options will pop-up eventually.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Sporting assured directing, great music, and a history-making performance by Ellen Burstyn, Requiem For A Dream is essential viewing.

 


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