mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

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Robespierre
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#101 Post by Robespierre » Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:49 pm

cdnchris wrote:
mfunk9786 wrote:There is another level on which say, Antichrist (surely the easiest and best comparison to mother! in recent years) functions, where it still manages to be a compelling narrative about two people that would work on its own without all of the extra metaphorical baggage.
When you mention this I realize that this is what irks me most about mother!: it's the fact that it doesn't even bother to really structure a story that can even be taken a little at face value. It's not subtle at all and wears its metaphors on its sleeve to where that's all you see. The first half actually structures an intriguing narrative that could work on its own, and I thought actually does, but once Bardem has actually created something BOOM it doesn't give a rat's ass anymore and doesn't even bother trying to hide what it's about in any sort of narrative. It goes balls-to-the-walls with its imagery and then that's it.
This is the same problem I have with No Country for Old Men, though it seems like mother! is a more extreme case (I'll probably see it sometime this week).

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#102 Post by Cde. » Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:54 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:
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That said, I'd bet that there are more elements of mother! that are inexplicable using the great artist lens than those that are out of place with the biblical allegory interpretation.
There are, but there are also aspects that speak much more to the
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art and muse interpretation than to the Biblical allegory interpretation, such as Lawrence being referred to as 'the inspiration', and the ending with a new mother replacing her, and the crystal taken from her heart becoming his new 'source of creative energy', or however the crystal was described.
And of course there's her response to the poem. I think he was expressing some deep aspect of himself, and in reading it she could see that she would ultimately be replaced, because he needs to feed off women's love and energy to fuel his creative drive, like so many maniacal male artists over the centuries.

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swo17
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#103 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:58 pm

oldsheperd wrote:Melancholia I can deal with. Dogville was dull and Antichrist, although I've never seen it, doesn't interest me much.
If Melancholia is principally telling a story whereas Dogville is delivering a treatise, then this probably more resembles the latter. It also sort of takes place on a stage. In fact, imagine Dogville playing out inside a 3D CGI house instead of with lines painted on the floor, and you wouldn't be too far off from this movie.

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mfunk9786
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#104 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:49 pm

Robespierre wrote:
cdnchris wrote:
mfunk9786 wrote:There is another level on which say, Antichrist (surely the easiest and best comparison to mother! in recent years) functions, where it still manages to be a compelling narrative about two people that would work on its own without all of the extra metaphorical baggage.
When you mention this I realize that this is what irks me most about mother!: it's the fact that it doesn't even bother to really structure a story that can even be taken a little at face value. It's not subtle at all and wears its metaphors on its sleeve to where that's all you see. The first half actually structures an intriguing narrative that could work on its own, and I thought actually does, but once Bardem has actually created something BOOM it doesn't give a rat's ass anymore and doesn't even bother trying to hide what it's about in any sort of narrative. It goes balls-to-the-walls with its imagery and then that's it.
This is the same problem I have with No Country for Old Men, though it seems like mother! is a more extreme case (I'll probably see it sometime this week).
Maybe I'm answering this way because I disagree with you fervently about No Country for Old Men (there is metaphor looming large, but those characters are absolutely three-dimensional), but mother! is much less concerned about its baseline characters and story outside of what function they can serve in the context of their symbolic purpose. Taken at face value, as Chris said, the story is absolutely fucking ridiculous.

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swo17
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#105 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:57 pm

I take it he's referring to how Anton Chigurh is almost supernaturally talented. Otherwise, while you have a point about this film's "face value," I think there's a happy middle ground to be found between realistic characters experiencing relatable frustrations and lifeless pawns being coldly manipulated by their director. Of course this movie is ridiculous--for long stretches, it's an absurdist comedy.

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mfunk9786
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#106 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:59 pm

Totally get it re: Chigurh, still think that film works straight ahead much better than mother! does.

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#107 Post by Cde. » Mon Sep 18, 2017 4:16 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Taken at face value, as Chris said, the story is absolutely fucking ridiculous.
I think this movie is a big progression over Black Swan because despite having serious minded artistic goals, I felt that Aronofsky was at least a little self-aware here. Often I was laughing at the excesses of Black Swan as it thrust itself into the realm of camp, but the small moments of black humour in this convinced me that now he's in on the joke.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#108 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:05 pm

swo17 wrote:I guess the Ken Russell mention is because it's absolutely bonkers and possibly a little blasphemous?
It's not a 1:1 comparison, stylistically for sure: Aronofsky's handheld aesthetic is very different from what Russell did. But the film functions at a similar fever pitch of excess and hysteria as a Russell film. And the way it's difficult, visceral subject matter (more attuned to an art house film) is tackled with an aural-visual outlandishness (instead of the quiet, austere style that's become de riguer for this type of art house film); and the way it's bolstered (and some would argue undermined) by an atmosphere of black comedy, camp and outright bad taste; All this strikes me almost like a throwback to what Russell and others were still able to accomplish when the division and budgets for art-house/mainstream(/exploitation) movies were much more malleable.

While I'm a fan of Russell's filmography, and mostly like this film, one can argue the same downsides: 1) A heavy-handed, sledgehammer approach to it's material, and 2) a contemptuous attitude towards all of mankind, while simultaneously wallowing in it's ugliness. Personally, I think film can always use more Boschian filmmakers, even if I still need to mull over this film a bit longer.

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R0lf
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#109 Post by R0lf » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:57 pm

I'm really surprised with all the recognition of allegory in this thread that no one hit the mark that this is just blow for blow (a mans) reading of feminist criticism towards patriarchy:

- unpaid domestic labour
- unrecognised emotional labour
- male based generational distribution of wealth
- male based social violence
- domestic violence
- sabotaging female achievements
- limited female roles
- wife, mother, whore roles
- the male gaze
- the capitalist state
- the police state
etc


The movie is quite literally about what happens to women in a world created by man.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#110 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:31 pm

But that critique and the religious are embedded one within the other. I don't think you can examine a people that has written Goddess out of it's spirituality with out also exposing the way it treats women in society in general. One critique fuels the other in this film.

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knives
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#111 Post by knives » Tue Sep 19, 2017 3:19 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:But that critique and the religious are embedded one within the other. I don't think you can examine a people that has written Goddess out of it's spirituality with out also exposing the way it treats women in society in general. One critique fuels the other in this film.
Not that Aronofsky would necessarily know, but given the ethnic element of your interpretation it should be noted that the Bible regularly uses female verbs, adjectives, and even pronouns in reference to god regularly meaning that goddess isn't written out at least as long as you read Hebrew and Aramaic.

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R0lf
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#112 Post by R0lf » Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:43 pm

That isn't an expansion of what I said because religion is one of the main organising power structures behind patriarchy.

And talking about Aronofsky being self aware with MOTHER!: the joke he has pulled with the movie is that because patriarchy is taken for granted as a default and invisible to a lot of people as a socially organising and structured force when those same people watch the movie they won't recognise it as the narrative device.

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Luke M
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#113 Post by Luke M » Tue Sep 19, 2017 7:36 pm

I saw this today and thought it was mostly a mess. A lot of good takes on the film here in the thread and honestly I have very little to add. I did pick up on the patriarchy aspect of it but that seemed secondary to the creationism story.

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Brian C
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#114 Post by Brian C » Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:16 am

mfunk9786 wrote:One way to resolve that issue would be to give him literally any other profession that can’t be interpreted as intersecting with Aronofsky’s
Like what, though? Obviously the metaphor wouldn't work if Bardem wasn't a creator in some way, but what would you suggest along those lines that couldn't be interpreted as being analogous to a movie director?

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mfunk9786
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#115 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:38 am

It’s a fair question, but even something like an abstract painter or mystery writer or something a little more specific would have put some distance there that just isn’t by making him a nondescript “poet.” But,
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I suppose if he is God, that’s as good a profession as any, I guess. But I wasn’t the only person to at least initially go right to the allegory about creators angle rather than the god’s children vs nature one, so if it really wasn’t his intention for it to read as being about himself, he certainly could have done a better job in that department.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#116 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Sep 20, 2017 3:36 am

R0lf wrote:That isn't an expansion of what I said because religion is one of the main organising power structures behind patriarchy.

And talking about Aronofsky being self aware with MOTHER!: the joke he has pulled with the movie is that because patriarchy is taken for granted as a default and invisible to a lot of people as a socially organising and structured force when those same people watch the movie they won't recognise it as the narrative device.
Fair. But equally I don't know if you're point is necessarily an expansion on anything previously mentioned. The movie is clearly, viscerally and on it's surface, A Woman's Nightmare. It's impossible to miss that as a narrative device. All the other readings mentioned - the creationist reading; the self-reflexive artist reading; even the environmental one - all revolve around the same thing: a microcrosm increasingly ordered along lines that marginalizes and brutalizes woman. Aronofsky may very well be an atheist, and I doubt very much he's any sort of neopagan. But I also think he's shown too much of a keen interest in mysticism and the biblical in the past to simply write off his religious archetypes as secular anthropology. I also don't see J-Law as beginning the film in bondage: I see her as being an equal, in some ways more powerful figure, than Bardem's impotent poet/creator/god. He creates the world (the Word) but then is unable to write another word; she is the one creating and maintaining the world through direct cultivation of it's environment. It is only his followers that increasingly marginalize and erase her authority and influence.
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It's worth noting that even as his influence grows, Bardem seems to remain an impotent figure. He soaks up adulation, but he never actually accomplishes anything for his followers. His second act of creation - and we're to assume his new great work and the conception of his son are one and the same by the way they coincide - is wasted in an insane and useless moment of sacrifice. Bardem, for all his influence, still remains an impotent creator. It is J-Law's character, with her connection to environment, who is ultimately able to make a a lasting gesture, although in her case the only avenue left is the destruction of that environment.

Granted, the film's circular narrative arguably bolsters your point, and that's definitely where the film is most ambiguous and troubling: while woman/goddess and her environment can be discarded like a burn-out husk, it is man/god and his Word which can regenerate itself infinitely. It's a rather chilling and subversive portrayal of the notion of eternity, one that also seems to posit Judeo-Christian partriarchy as the constant factor.
mfunk9786 wrote:It’s a fair question, but even something like an abstract painter or mystery writer or something a little more specific would have put some distance there that just isn’t by making him a nondescript “poet.”
Is he really a poet though? At least by any understanding of what we know?

One of things I liked about the film is how vague it is about Bardem's work. The way he writes - on single pieces of parchment, certainly not enough to fill a book - seems to keep the scope of his work purposely vague, as does the weird slim and meager chapbook bindings we see in his library. For all we know, all he may have written was a single maxim, which makes it's popularity and influence all the more perplexing. The way I see it, Bardem's medium is not poetry, but The Word in and of itself, no more, no less.

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R0lf
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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#117 Post by R0lf » Wed Sep 20, 2017 7:04 am

When you talk about the microcosm they're being ordered along I'm saying the ordering force is patriarchy.

Bardem's impotence is another patriarchal trope: the fact that even though it gives social power and financial reward to the man it's still an equally restrictive and oppressive role. This especially applies to how men are allowed to express emotions and love within a relationship (there is a scene where he literally locks his emotions inside a room)

J-Law's successful autonomy within her environment is also only allowed within a very narrow role. Even though she is able to successfully navigate these roles she never finds fulfilment within them because they're an external and arbitrary mandate of meeting social expectations of what a wife should be and not an internal dialogue of self actualisation.

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#118 Post by All the Best People » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:19 pm

I hated this movie more than any I've seen in several years. The allegory was all so painfully blunt and rote and with no more import than you could fit onto the average fingernail.

Here's the film's plot:
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It opens with a shot of a woman in an apocalyptic moment, then cuts to God (Javier Bardem) using a crystal stone (which will come to allegorically stand for the Forbidden Fruit) to create the heavens and the earth (in allegorical form of the house). A Goddess (Jennifer Lawrence) awakes from the ashes. God has writer's block (the character is a poet) but the Goddess is encouraging and is making over the house. An older, dying man arrives, who we come to understand is Adam (Ed Harris). Adam is a big fan of God's poetry. Adam gets very drunk that night and there is a serious wound in his back, where maybe the edge of a rib would be. The next morning, Adam's wife, Eve (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives. She starts asking Goddess very pointed questions about how she doesn't have children.

God keeps his crystal stone in the room where He writes, and asks that no one go in there. Adam and Eve go in there and break it. God kicks them out of the room and boards it up. Goddess wants Adam and Eve to leave the house entirely, but then their two sons show up and argue about inheritance and one kills the other (Cain and Abel). God ushers them out and sees the one die and comes back to spend time with Goddess alone. But then Adam and Eve and all their family and friends show up and have a funeral that turns into a party. Eventually a sink breaks and a flood ensues and all the people leave. The house/Earth is still a huge mess, but Goddess challenges God to fuck her so that they can have children. They fuck and she wakes up pregnant, then says as she goes to clean up the house/Earth: "I'm going to get started on the Apocalypse."

Goddess' pregnancy inspires God's writing, and he writes a poem about how He and Goddess created life from lifelessness/the Old Testament. His publisher reads it immediately and is excited. Goddess is very very pregnant now and wants to celebrate all this with God, but then people start showing up to worship God. They get in the house/Earth and start taking it apart. Goddess is very upset by this and feels threatened, and receives unwanted advances from some men. God and some friendly people are able to safely get her to the writing room, where she gives birth. In the middle of all this, the publisher/organized religion/the church (Kristen Wiig) has shown up and has some fake friendliness to the Goddess.

God wants to share the Child with the people, but Goddess won't let Him. But she eventually falls asleep and God gives the Child to the people. who praise and worship the Child and then kill the Child. Goddess is inconsolable, but God tells her they must forgive the people and that the Child's death will lead to good things. Anyway, people are now eating pieces of the Child. Fights and partying ensue and riot police show up and everyone is ripping apart the house and taking things away. Goddess is shrieking during all of this. The Church starts executing people and intends to execute Goddess when someone shows up to save her. That's all temporary because he gets shot, but so does the Church.

God once again helps Goddess and she goes through the -- I skipped over this earlier, but there's a long-running thing where there's this bleeding oblong hole in the ground that leads to the basement, if you can guess what that resembles -- but she gets down to the basement and sets the whole place ablaze. Apocalypse! The people are gone, God is unharmed, and Goddess is alive but burned to a crisp. God takes her to the bedroom. She says she's given all she has to give, and God says there's one more thing. God takes out her burned heart, opens it, and takes out the crystal stone within. He uses it to restore the house and re-create the heavens and the earth, and a new Goddess (some other actress I don't know) awakes from the ashes. THE END
I take it some people bought into the craft of this, but I didn't even find it engaging on that level. This sort of unreality just seems so ... minor league in a world where the new season of Twin Peaks exists. The actors do what they can, but there just isn't anything to be done.

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#119 Post by Robespierre » Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:02 am

So I went to go see this one--about as good as I could've hoped. I didn't hate it but it was also ridiculous. As far as my original comparison to NCFOM goes, I wrote something more substantial but it was lost when I went to submit it. Suffice to say that story hasn't really interested me for years. NCFOM has a patently absurd story once you get down to it (Moss' actions in the movie are contrived and ridiculous). But both it and mother! use story as a means in which to hang an allegory under, a jumping off point with which to consider other, more important, aspects of the film. NCFOM is obviously the more successful of the two, but I'm not head over heels crazy about NCFOM like some people are because it has many of the same contrived traits that mother! does, though the latter is very clearly the more ridiculous and ham fisted of the two.

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#120 Post by Grand Wazoo » Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:44 am

I'm genuinely surprised that I liked this as much as I did since Aronofsky is quite hit and miss for me. Aside from the technical achievement of it all, especially the last 30 min. or so, which is an outstanding example of chaotic insanity that also seems knowingly over the top (and had me laughing hysterically at times), the most impressive aspect to me is that
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while the biblical readings are of course apt and one of Aronofsky's stated goals, this simultaneously works entirely as an expressionistic story of a woman dealing with an emotional abuser. Jennifer Lawrence's character literally does everything for Bardem: cooking, worrying about his comfort, putting the entire house together. He spends his time not-writing and paying far more attention to random strangers than his own spouse, whose feelings he never acknowledges except in a moment of lust. Whenever we see the heart beating that slowly solidifies into a mineral, I took it as Bardem emotionally beating the love and patience out of her. The batshit crazy collapse of society within the house can be Lawrence's inner turmoil while trying to keep up a generally pleasing facade yet maintain control of her life and surroundings. The cyclical nature of the film is pointing toward Bardem being a serial abuser, consistently finding new woman to use up until they flame out. This also plays into the "skeletons in the closet" aspect of the details Lawrence finds throughout the house and how she respects Bardem's decree of not going into his study without him present, hints that something is very wrong with her man and the life they've built but not wanting to dig too far in case a negative suspicion proves to be true. Him being an artist gives even more room to play with these narcissistic stereotypes. It's all extremely blunt, as is Aronofky's MO, but I found it immensely effective for this reading.
A female friend of mine called me after she saw it last night and was in shock. "I cannot believe a man wrote and directed this. It's exactly what it feels like to be a woman in a relationship where you just give and give and receive little in return." I feel like this is mother!'s strongest trait, which makes the charges of rampant misogyny with people screaming "Aronofsky hates women" all the more baffling (until I remember I see this on Twitter and, well, it's Twitter.)

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#121 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:39 am

Grand Wazoo wrote:A female friend of mine called me after she saw it last night and was in shock. "I cannot believe a man wrote and directed this. It's exactly what it feels like to be a woman in a relationship where you just give and give and receive little in return." I feel like this is mother!'s strongest trait, which makes the charges of rampant misogyny with people screaming "Aronofsky hates women" all the more baffling (until I remember I see this on Twitter and, well, it's Twitter.)
Yeah, I've seen it for a second time and while I still think the critique of religion and God is central, this is the next most prominent element (and they tie into each other, as the use of religion to subjugate/hate women is a recurring motif).
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When Ed Harris first sees the crystal heart and Bardem states that it was a gift that helped him rebuild after the fire, Harris asks Lawrence if it was a gift from her. The look on her face as she says "No" is a telling nod to the serial emotional abuser angle you mention.

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#122 Post by FrauBlucher » Sat Sep 23, 2017 10:24 am

I saw this last night, followed by an Aronofsky Q&A. David O. Russell was the moderator. Russell gushed about the film for 10 minutes before he asked the first question. He called it a great film and Aronosfsky's best.

A few points Aronofsky stressed about the film...
- It's his most personal film. He was the Jennifer Lawrence character when writing it, which comes from rage, anger and sadness with what's going on.
- Man versus Mother! earth.
- Yes, there are biblical metaphors and conections to the story.
- Luis Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel was partly an inspiration for this. Not so much for Polanski.

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#123 Post by lacritfan » Sat Sep 23, 2017 10:08 pm


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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#124 Post by All the Best People » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:39 am

None of those were questions that needed to be asked. That's like interviewing someone who published a multiplication table about what numbers he used.

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Re: mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

#125 Post by Finch » Sun Sep 24, 2017 9:46 am

Beware major spoilers in this if you haven't seen the film

Mother!'s Theater of Cruelty: the Atlantic on mother!

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