For A Dream, USA, 2000, 102 min. Starring
Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans,
Ellen Burstyn. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. There
have been plenty of films that have attempted
to depict the pain and struggle of the hardcore
drug addict, but this may be the first that takes
the viewer directly into the addict's mind. Aronofsky's
second feature utilizes the hyper-kinetic visuals
of his debut feature PI and marries them to Hubert
Selby's fierce novel (adapted by Selby with the
director), further enhanced by some gutsy performances,
particularly Burstyn's justifiably acclaimed turn
as a lonely matron hooked on diet pills.
Before Night Falls,
USA, 2000, 133 min. Starring Javier Bardem, Olivier
Martinez, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn. Directed by
Julian Schnabel. Painter Schnabel takes for his
second feature the life of gay Cuban novelist/poet
Reynaldo Arenas and his struggles both to create
and to live the life he chose despite considerable
opposition from both social and political standpoints.
The idea of someone who works primarily in visuals
making a film about someone whose chief mode of
expression was verbal might seem like a tricky
proposition, but Schnabel pulls it off, conveying
the complexities of Arenas's life and his art,
and how the two intertwined.
Shadow Of The Vampire,
UK-USA-Luxembourg, 2000, 92 min. Starring John
Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Cary Elwes,
Catherine McCormack. Directed by E. Elias Merhige.
Absolutely wonderful mix of drama, comedy and
horror re-imagines the making of one of our other
Quintessential Cinema picks, F. W. Murnau's 1922
vampire masterpiece Nosferatu, by positing that
Max Schreck wasn't an actor, but a real vampire,
and that Murnau got him into the film by promising
him the lead actress as a post-production snack.
The movie has tons of fun with the aesthetic trappings
of the silent film genre – its moodiness,
its hamminess – not to mention staging incredible
recreations of the original and cementing it all
with a solid story all its own.
Dancer In The Dark,
Denmark-Germany-Netherlands -USA-UK-France- Sweden-Finland-Iceland-Norway,
2000, 140 min. Starring Björk, Catherine
Deneuve, David Morse. Directed by Lars von Trier.
Icelandic singer Björk plays an Eastern European
woman living in America who is slowly losing her
eyesight due to a degenerative disorder. She works
desperately at a factory job in order to save
enough money so that her son might get an operation
and be spared a similar fate, and finds escape
from the drudgery of her life by imagining herself
in the middle of Berkeley-esque musical numbers.
Von Trier sets aside the Dogma '95 rules to make
this truly unique film that pays homage to the
musical genre, and yet is quite definitively the
work of the man who brought us such staggering,
challenging work as The Element of Crime, Zentropa
and Breaking the Waves.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon, Hong Kong-Taiwan-USA, 2000, 119
min. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang
Ziyi. Directed by Ang Lee. Sweeping story ostensibly
about the search for a legendary sword that has
been stolen, though that's really something of
a MacGuffin, as the heart of the film belongs
to the unspoken, never consummated love affair
between Yun-Fat and Yeoh's warrior characters,
which spans the years and faces considerable obstacles.
Director Lee had already proven himself adept
at western-style filmmaking with such offerings
as 1997's The Ice Storm when he dazzled the film
community with this return to his eastern roots,
a stunning combination of adventure, fantasy,
romance, and martial arts buoyed by the now-oft-imitated