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Perhaps the Best Film of 2008

Replicate the emotional effect of watching Darren Aronofsky’s ‘The Wrestler,’ starring a resurgent Mickey Rourke, in four easy steps!

Step 1
Download Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ or ‘The Rising’ onto your iPod.

Step 2
Find a suitable length of barbed wire. Using heavy gloves, bend the wire into a U-shape.

Step 3
With the iPod blasting The Boss’s most depressing tunes in your ear, take a fast multi-kilometer sprint up and down the Brooklyn Promenade on a winter night while liberally thrashing at your back and sides with the wire, like a technologically updated medieval penitent.

Step 4
Collapse from total exhaustion. For added bonus points, curse the cruel world and everything in it.

Yes, it’s that emotionally/physically draining of a motion picture: the combination of handheld gritty cinematography, loving exploration of the title character’s every physical infirmity and emotional scar, and brutal ending all combine into a film that left me a bit stunned outside the theater afterwards.

Of course, I felt the same way walking out of Aronofsky’s first two films, ‘Pi’ and ‘Requiem for a Dream’ – but in both those cases, the emotional effect was at least partially due to the visual overload of his technique; drug abuse may be a film cliché, but when the director chooses to portray its nadir with an overwhelming 400 edit-cuts in five minutes, you’re going to feel as if you were hit with a sledgehammer whether you like it or not.

The fact that he can now achieve the same effect without the cinematic razzle-dazzle is a big step up for him as a director. Last year was a terrible one for quality films; but even if it’d been a good one, I’d still put this movie at – or near – the top of the list.

Current Music: Guns ‘N Roses, “Better”
Current Movie: “Lost: Season Four” (2008)
Current Book: “The Castle in the Forest,” by Norman Mailer

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