Tuesday, 20 January 2009
We're barely three weeks into the New Year, and it's already a very busy time at the cinema. With the BAFTAS on the horizon,many film fans are faced with making some difficult choices as the recession really takes hold. Yesterday, we arrived at Derby's splendid Cinema De Lux, with our eyes on four films and money for just the one. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE READER, AUSTRALIA and THE WRESTLER (oh, and you can throw in a 3D MY BLOODY VALENTINE for good measure if you want).
Let's talk Mickey Rourke! Back in the day,MR was the dog's bollocks as far as I was concerned. DINER, RUMBLE FISH, THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE, ANGEL HEART, YEAR OF THE DRAGON... the list goes on. Like De Niro, he's done shifts on pay-the-rent fare and controversy has dogged him for years, but memories of those golden years still burn brightly.
So, we found ourselves in the plush 'Director's Hall' eagerly awaiting THE WRESTLER. Here, Rourke plays Randy 'The Ram' Robinson; a fucked-up canvas man who once pounded the boards (and heads)at major venues, and is now reduced to appearing at 5th-rate halls, driven by bills, steroids and burnt-out memories.Randy's life outside the ring reflects his past and present career: a daughter who disowns the father who walked out on her life and a stripper/hostess (the excellent Marisa Tomei) who - like Randy - is finding the years catching up on her, as attention gravitates towards the younger clan. Life both inside and outside the ring is dirty, seedy, extremely bloody and, ultimately, depressing in the extreme. And yet, THE WRESTLER is totally absorbing viewing from start to finish, with Rourke turning in a powerhouse of a performance. Some may argue that Mickey boy is simply drawing on some of his past experiences here, but be assured this role took real guts to take on and nail down to such a heart rending extent. At times, Aronofsky's film is brutal, look away cinema with a savage intensity that tries and ( in my case) succeeds in putting the viewer firmly on the ropes, but it's the quieter, more subtle moments that really leave a scar: wrestlers trading on former glories waiting to sign books for an audience that left years ago; an emotional meeting where father and daughter visit places from good times she can't even recall and a scene in a deli that's both funny and extremely moving. This is Aronofsky's RAGING BULL; a return to the human decay of BARFLY for its leading actor and a gruelling experience for all.