“Ballsiest Visionary Art Film Of The Year,” posted on 11.4.17: Who knows if there will even be serious film historians 50 years hence? The culture might be so degraded by then…I don’t want to think about it. But if they’re still around one or two will probably look back upon our troubled epoch and ask “which 2017 films really conveyed what the world was like back then? Which tried to express what people were hoping for or afraid of? Which tell us the most in terms of cultural self-portraiture or self-reflection?”
I can guarantee you right now that Darren Aronofsky‘s mother! will definitely be among the few films that scholars of 2067 will study when they ponder U.S. culture during the first year of Donald Trump’s administration.
I can also assure you that no one will pay the slightest historical attention to Thor: Ragnarok or Logan or even Blade Runner 2049. These three films have earned serious box-office coin, of course, while mother! topped out at a measly $17,800,004 domestic and $25,850,098 foreign. But they won’t matter when all has been said and done and the deciders have completed their assessments. Art lasts; all diversions melt.
In the same way that the mid ‘1950s were clearly reflected by Kiss Me Deadly, Patterns, No Down Payment and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the currents of the mid to late’60s were c channelled by Bonnie and Clyde, Rosemary’s Baby, The President’s Analyst and The Graduate, Aronofsky’s allegorical horror film burrows right into the dirt and muck of the here-and-now.
In my book mother! is either the fourth- or fifth-best film of the year, in part because it’s probably the most courageous. How did Aronofsky get Paramount to finance and release a film that Joe and Jane Popcorn reportedly hated with a passion? Whatever the back-story, the release of mother! is a proud event in the annals of American cinema because it went for something and nailed it, because it reaches right into the nightmares and agitations and self-loathings of a convulsive era and says “do you smell it…do you sense the disease and disruption? Not the chaos that you’re watching on-screen, but the real-deal horrors that are defining the world outside?”
If there are any film critics organizations out there with any balls, they’ll give Aronofsky a special artistic courage award or two next month.
“Obviously all horror flicks are signifiers of cultural undercurrents,” I wrote on 9.15.17. “Most stand and deliver as visceral experiences, but the best ones slip into your bloodstream and before you know it you’re them. Or they’re you. mother! is visceral as hell, but you can’t watch it and not think ‘uhhm, this is about more than what I’m seeing on the screen…this might actually be about everything that’s happening on the planet right now.’ Or not. Up to you. But it begs to be grappled with.