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Barnes & NobleDrug addiction is the catalyst for some mind-altering cinematic pyrotechnics in 2000's Requiem for a Dream, a cautionary tale from director Darren Aronofsky. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., Requiem follows a young ne'er-do-well Jared Leto, his upscale girlfriend Jennifer Connelly, and his widowed mother Ellen Burstyn as they all learn the hard way about the dangers of substance abuse. There's a glimpse or two of the drug culture in Requiem, but for the most part the film probes internal landscapes. Those who've seen Aronofsky's debut film, Pi, will know that this is his strong suit, and he uses a textbook-filling array of cinematic devices to bring the addicts' hallucinatory experiences to the screen. This all builds steadily into a relentless barrage of manic intercutting that leaves some viewers exhilarated, others unnerved. While Leto and Connelly do very well in projecting a romantic chemistry that's smashed by the competing chemistry of addiction, Burstyn's Oscar-nominated performance is simply startling. Her diet-pill-induced downward slide is nothing short of horrific, as she transforms from a meek, mild-mannered, slightly overweight infomercial addict into an emaciated, deranged speed freak. Requiem starts out dark and only gets darker; it's not for the faint of heart.
A little knowledge turns out to be a dangerous thing for the protagonist of Pi, a relentlessly energetic psychological thriller. While working on a system to predict stock prices, mathematics genius Max Cohen Sean Gullette stumbles onto a powerful secret that piques the interest of both a Wall Street brokerage house and a group of Hasidic Cabalists. The debut feature of director Darren Aronofsky Requiem for a Dream, Pi is a stunningly assured showpiece of kinetic visual style with gorgeously grainy, high-contrast black-and-white photography, wild camera movements, and rapid-fire editing. As Max's discovery leads him to the brink of a psychotic breakdown, a throbbing electronic score by Clint Mansell, music by Autechre and Orbital, and head-spinning discussions of Pythagorean theorems and Jewish mysticism add to the heady atmosphere of paranoia. By the end, Pi produces a kind of sensory overload through a barrage of sounds, images, words, and numbers that magnificently capture the thrill and danger of an obsessive search for ultimate truth