During the course of the evening, he namechecked many filmmakers -- Fellini, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Kusturica and Spielberg -- and many films, including “Stop Making Sense” (director Jonathan Demme was in the audience) and more recently, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which he described as “one of the most amazing performances and moments of spirit that you’ll ever see in a movie.” Here's a recap of what we learned over the evening.
[At college I was] waiting for that moment when a light would shine on me and tell me what to do. And luckily my roommate was an animator and he would end the year with a movie, and I would end it with a bunch of papers with B minuses on them. So I was terrfied to start studying filmmaking, but he gave me the strength, and then I started to edit, cutting with real film. I was really good at working that machine, so I helped other people with it, and discovering editing and the power of a strong cut is what gave me the energy to make films.
Aronofsky feels he’s become looser in his filmmaking style from film to film.
I’ve become more and more loose as I’ve progressed. I used to shotlist and storyboard everything. And now [I just do that for] really difficult technical scenes where visual effects are a major part. If it’s just actors and a set I go completely unprepared, put them in the location and try and figure out a moment. It’s less work for me, because I have to do less homework, but it also I think is a better process.
"The Fountain” and ‘Requiem’ are much more formal and I was on sticks a lot, but then “The Wrestler” was very much a verite documentary style, so I started to work with handheld cameras. I think every movie has its own visual language and it’s your job as director to figure out what’s the best language to tell that story. Sometimes there’s economic reasons, but then you try to figure out how to make that part of the language of the film.
I worked the least in “The Wrestler” than I ever worked, as far as the amount of pain that went in. And I think I even worked a little less on “Black Swan,” so sometimes it’s not how hard you work, it’s just getting into the groove of what’s in front of you.
It was the film I wanted to make. Of all my movies, to the people that are fans, it’s almost like a cult religion, they get tattoos and I’m constantly getting long letters from people saying it helped them come to terms with something. So I think it works for a much smaller audience because ultimately the film is about coming to terms with your own death, which is not a big commercial idea for a lot of people. The unfortunate thing about that film is it cost a lot of money to make, but is probably more of an art/experimental film than the budget it warranted.
The way we treat old people and people who are dying is just…with all our advances in science we’ve just become incredibly cruel with how the end of life is dealt with -- especially in the States, it’s really messed up. And the beginning of life too -- giving birth in America you have to do it in a hospital and there are very few options for natural childbirth. So Western science has taken control of the way we are born and the way we die, and there’s really no spirituality to it any more. [laughs] This is why that was not a commercial movie.