No one who has seen Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) can forget its frenetic opening—a shot in the arm for British film, which at the time, thanks to the success of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), was tightening its corsets and brushing up its bourgeois etiquette. Propelled by the crashing bass-drum intro of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,” the jobless, wasted narrator (Ewan McGregor) pelts along Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland’s epicenter of mindless consumerism, pursued by security guards from a store he has robbed with two of his mates. He’s sent flying by a car but bounces up and cackles fiendishly at the driver. Since the camera is positioned behind the steering wheel, it’s the viewer who becomes the target of the fugitive’s Cheshire-cat grin, as Boyle freezes the fourth-wall-breaking frame to name “Renton” with a caption. This double dose of Brechtian signposting indicates the contempt for obedient naturalism that will define the film.
Adapted by John Hodge from Irvine Welsh’s scabrous 1993 novel, Trainspotting depicts Mark Renton’s struggles to kick his heroin habit. As the opening sequence continues, he’s shown surrendering to euphoria in a dingy “shooting gallery,” then participating in a floodlit five-a-side soccer game as quick cuts and more captioned freeze-frames introduce his friends: devious blond bombshell Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and hapless, sweet-natured Spud (Ewen Bremner), both fellow smack addicts; swaggering psycho Begbie (Robert Carlyle); and guileless fitness freak Tommy (Kevin McKidd).
As Iggy crows his depravity anthem, Renton topples twice—first KO’d by the soccer ball, next poleaxed by his fix back in the shooting gallery. The camera glides down his prostrate body at floor level, past a neglected baby in another room, and into another, where Spud, Sick Boy, and the latter’s sometime girlfriend, Allison (Susan Vidler), are injecting the junk supplied by their host, Swanney (Peter Mullan).
The Roaring Twenties: Into the Past
Hollywood legend Raoul Walsh’s first movie for Warner Bros. is an epoch-spanning tall tale that takes inspiration from the New York City of his childhood and closes out a run of influential gangster films he inaugurated in the silent era.
The Heroic Trio / Executioners: To the Power of Three
Combining the influence of the wuxia genre, the Hong Kong New Wave filmmaking of the 1980s, and loony comic-book futurism, these two ass-kicking fantasias are dazzling showcases of female physicality.
Nothing but a Man: What We Can See in Ourselves
Released at the height of the civil rights movement, this deceptively simple tale of a working-class Black man’s search for love and self-worth broke ground with its realism, nuance, and intensity.
Eric Rohmer’s Tales of the Four Seasons: Another Year
Through its echoes, resonances, and intricately branching stories, this cycle of films evokes the feeling that life, like the weather, is based on patterns too complex to ever be fully predictable.
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