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Volume 70, Issue 7, Tuesday, August 31, 2004



'Pay attention, you could miss something'

Return of cult classic offers fans better explanation 
of original story

By Jason Gagnon
The Daily Cougar

Richard Kelly was one lucky man. He got the opportunity to direct his first screenplay without an overbearing studio intruding into his vision and was aided by some gracious producers (one being Drew Barrymore). Making waves amongst those in attendance at the Sundance Film Festival, Donnie Darko found distribution, but did poorly upon wide release. 

There are endless reasons one could speculate to as why the film wasn't a commercial success, but it definitely made an impact on home video where it has birthed a cult of devout worshipers who tirelessly attempt to deconstruct the rich story on scores of Web sites. 

They can all rest now because Kelly's definitive version of the film will be given a theatrical re-release soon. Donnie Darko: The Directors Cut is closer to the version shown at Sundance and brings greater clarity to Kelly's genre-mashing masterpiece. 

The story centers around a young man named Donnie Darko who is a normal teenager in the late 1980s with the small exceptions of being diagnosed as a schizophrenic and possessing an intimidating I.Q. in addition to wandering off from home while sleeping. One night, Donnie is lured away by a grotesque six-foot bunny rabbit named Frank who warns that the end of the world will soon be here. Meanwhile, a mysterious jet engine has crashed into the boy's bedroom leaving him convinced that these events are not coincidences and sets off to figure out what this ambiguous journey he is on is all about. 

The performances are all stellar and Kelly certainly has a sharp eye for direction. Scenes flow together beautifully and the sequence when Donnie enters school for the first time appears to be assembled by an artistic master. The film possesses an intellectual depth that makes it intoxicating and irresistible even if the answers aren't always given. 

"It's a sci-fi comic book superhero fable with a specific design to it. That got hidden and wasn't clear in the original cut," Kelly said, via phone. 

Offering this definitive version of the film, the writer and director answers many lingering questions, but as Kelly graciously asserts, these additions "add more mystery (to) the story." He's right. New questions pop up as others are answered which allows the film to retain its delightful mind bending charm.

Donnie Darko's intended ambiguity has led to many misinterpretations of the film with some truly creative assumptions. 

"Sometimes people get really selfish with the film," Kelly said. "Like they want Cherita Chen to be a spy for the Chinese government (or) people think Donnie is crazy or (Frank) is evil. A lot of people have been misinterpreting it as a David Lynch film which was not my intention."

His intentions couldn't be clearer in this version of one of the most impressive film debuts of all time. All of the necessary answers are there, just follow Frank's advice and "Pay attention. You could miss something."

Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut

Rated: R

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Katharine Ross

Newmarket Films

The Verdict: Much more than a cult classic. Donnie Darko is the type of film audiences should expect from the new generation of filmmakers. 

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