Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
As a believer that Darren Aronofsky is one of the rare originals among the recent class of new directors, I was eager to double back and view his “The Fountain” (2006), a movie about immortality that was released just about the time my own was being called into question.
Although as a doctoral candidate in English I was advised to be familiar with the existing criticism on a work before venturing to write my own, as a film critic I am usually writing before other reviews have even been published. But a year had passed. So after looking at the film, I checked out IMDb’s “external reviews” section and discovered that, good lord, 221 reviews had been written on “The Fountain.” On other sites I discovered that its Metacritic rating was 51 (out of 100) and it scored exactly the same on the Tomatometer. Urgent to Aronofsky: Remember that when Terry Zwigoff was sleeping with that gun under his pillow, he still had “Crumb,” “Ghost World” and “Bad Santa” ahead of him.
How bad could “The Fountain” be? I selected one review, Variety’s, because it was written from the premiere at Venice and was the first word on the film. I found that the “one-time wunderkind,” who had been “overpraised for the then-hip, now-dated use of pseudo-science in "Pi," and for the visual excess he deployed in the grungy "Requiem for a Dream",” had now committed a film in which Hugh Jackman stars in “three stories in different time frames and switches throughout somewhat abruptly between them, although auds can parse which is going on when by paying attention to how much hair Jackman is sporting at any given time.”
I was relieved to find that pseudo-science and visual excess are now behind us in the cinema. But let’s talk about hair. In the first story, Jackman portrays a conquistador, in the second he is a modern scientist, and in the third he is bald and floating through space inside a magical bubble. Auds who cannot parse that must be plumb parsed out. And why trash Aronofsky’s first two films, just when I was trying to decide which I would write about as a Great Movie? He made “Pi” at 29 (best director, Sundance), “Requiem” at 31 (Oscar nom for Ellen Burstyn), and now, at 37, he was already a “onetime wunderkind.” Scott Fitzgerald said American lives don’t have second acts; he never said they don’t have first ones.