The first time I watched the film, Donnie Darko I was left with the same feeling I had at the end of David Lynch’s, Mulholland Drive; I’d felt that I just witnessed a work of minor genius.
For those unfamiliar with it; Darko tells the tale of a high school student in Virginia who during October of 1988 is saddled with the unenviable task of saving the world.
A mix of dark comedy, comic book sensibilities, teen angst, psycho-babble and science fiction, Donnie Darko is a perplexing cinematic experience. The viewer is teased with hints and maguffins and a horrid jack rabbit suited specter. It’s the kind of movie most people dislike, and yet it’s the kind of movie I enjoy best.
Give me a mystery, wrap it in an enigma and I’m there!
I guess that’s why I was one of those people that watched Twin Peaks from its first episode to the bitter end, and then went and saw the damn movie version. These day’s it’s all about HBO’s Carnivale, a surreal television drama which leisurely unfolds on Sunday nights and concerns itself with a demonic preacher and a young man with healing powers…brilliant stuff.
But back to Donnie Darko, like I said earlier, when I first watched this movie I was truly taken with it and so, of course, I bought a copy of the DVD and watched the film again as well as the deleted scenes and the various commentary tracks. Later on I went to the website (a must see for any fan of this piece) and went deeper and deeper into Director, Richard Kelly’s tangent universe tale.
Imagine my delight when I saw a re-issue of Darko in what is being billed as “The Director’s Cut” – Boy Howdy! Hello Netflix!
The disc arrived yesterday and I just finished watching it. What can I tell you? It’s still essentially the same thing, we have a handful of new scenes thrown in that flesh out a bit more of the story; but, and this is a BIG BUT, there are these grating cheesy effects that have been added now that include a huge staring eye that seems to work as some kind of computer screen every time Donnie’s character is about to do something important … um, ok. I think I understand why these moments were excised from the theatrical release in the first place, they are just plain silly and they stop the movie dead in it’s tracks every time they occur (which is more and more frequently as the film progresses).
Later on I watched the movie again with the commentary track (there is a supplemental disc also, however I did not order it so I don’t know what it includes), which includes Kelly along with Kevin Smith who is a fan of the film and who sort of works to keep Kelly on track. Frankly, the more Mr. Kelly went on about his film, the less enamored with him I became. That is, Smith seemed to have a better grip on the tale and the characters than the director did! Of course, maybe Richard Kelly is tired of talking about this movie, so I’ll give him a pass.
Bottom line, if you have NOT seen Donnie Darko go rent the original version. Go with it, and see what you think, you might be pleasantly surprised (and probably somewhat confused, but that’s why second and third viewings are a must). As for the Director’s Cut, well if your curiosity is peaked, go for it, just don’t expect anything earth shattering in this alternate version.
And if you’re wondering why I have titled my post the way I did, chances are you have not seen the film yet.