Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Requiem for a Dream

I’ve long been a fan of Nick Rombes’ work. By day, Nick is Chair of the English depart­ment at the University of Detroit Mercy, but that doesn’t begin to describe his wide range of interests or his vast tal­ents. Consider just two of sev­eral books he’s written, Cinema in the Digital Age and A Cultural Dictionary of Punk, and you’ll get a bit of an idea why I’m a fan.

One of his most innov­ative ideas is his ongoing 10/40/70 pro­ject, in which he ana­lyzes screen cap­tures from films taken at the 10, 40, and 70 minute marks. Based loosely on that idea, he’s come up with an inter­esting new pro­ject and invited me to take part.

Darren Aronofsky’s second film Requiem for a Dream was released ten years ago this month, and to mark the occa­sion, Rombes has cre­ated Requiem // 102, a pro­ject for which he has invited 102 con­trib­utors to write about a screen cap­ture from each of the film’s 102 minutes. There will be one new entry each weekday, which should take us into the new year. The pro­ject excited me for sev­eral reasons.

First, I’ve never seen the film. I’m aware of its repu­ta­tion and its sig­ni­fic­ance, and have owned the DVD for more than five years now, but until now, I’ve never had a com­pel­ling reason to watch it. That changes now. Second, I’m a huge fan of cre­ative work based on con­straints. In my brief time teaching lit­er­ature to 12-year-olds, I delighted in for­cing them to write poetry in eso­teric forms like the vil­lan­elle. Despite their ini­tial protests, they were often delighted to find that they’d written some­thing better than they ever could have ima­gined. And per­haps related to the idea of con­straints, I’ve never really written about film in this way before. I’ve been reading Rombes raven­ously because he writes about the more formal aspects of film that I’ve pre­vi­ously left unex­amined, and so I’m excited to be asked to rise to the chal­lenge of writing in an unfa­miliar way about an unfa­miliar film.

The first two entries in the pro­ject are already up, and Chuck Tryon and Catherine Grant have set the bar pretty high. It’s also a bit crazy to me that I’ve been somehow admitted to this group of film pro­fessors and aca­demics. I like that the expect­a­tions are so high, and I’m eager to chal­lenge myself to pro­duce some­thing on par with the other participants.

You can read more about Requiem // 102 on the site’s About page, and you can also follow the pro­ject on Twitter.

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