It's a foul and grotesque exercise in nausea, yet completely engrossing from the start.
It's the most experimental film to gain a large release in America since Slacker.
Its subject matter is something eschewed by almost everybody -- heroin addiction.
Its unique structure, built around metaphor and over-the-top imagery, will make the film inaccessible to most audiences, as if the thick Scottish accents that make most of the dialogue indecipherable don't already.
It's Trainspotting, and it's great.
Making an independent movie about drug addiction isn't the easiest thing in the world. Gus Van Sant tried it awhile back, in Drugstore Cowboy, with fair success. This time it's director Danny Boyle (who helmed last year's filmcritic.com #1 Film of the Year, Shallow Grave), with a few familiar faces from the aforementioned masterpiece (led by Grave's Ewan McGregor, as our narrator Renton) and a lot of Boyle's signature avant-garde direction.
The story is based on Irvine Welsh's cult novel of the same name, as Trainspottingtracks the downward -- and upward -- spirals of a group of heroin-addicted friends in Scotland. The title comes from a popular pastime in Britain, where people apparently sit by the tracks and record every possible detail of the passing trains -- sometimes for days at a time. The futility of this task is yet another metaphor in a metaphor-bloated picture, where nothing on the screen is exactly what it seems.
The film truly defies description, and even a full 12 months of hype couldn't adequately prepare me for what I eventually saw. Suffice it to say that this horribly nasty and raw exposé of how unglamorous the junkie life really is manages to overpower anything else I've seen on film in a long while. Beyond that, you'll just have to see for yourself. But be prepared to be shocked, disgusted, and at the same time, enthralled.
I could talk about the bothersome aspects of Trainspotting: an annoying techno soundtrack, a dragging middle section, and rapid-fire, heavily-accented dialogue that went in my ears and never quite reached my brain. Or I could talk about how, after leaving the theater, I wanted to immediately see the film again. But, as Trainspotting's Renton puts it, why would I want to do a thing like that?
The director's cut DVD comprises two discs, including a making-of documentary, retrospective, interviews, and a multi-angle feature. Deleted scenes and a feature length commentary round up the excellent extras on an excellent package.
This scene, with McGregor's Renton crawling out of a toilet, is actually only the second most disgusting scene in the film.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th July 1996
Box Office Worldwide: $16.6M
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Production compaines: Channel Four Films, Noel Gay Motion Picture Company, Figment Films, Miramax Films
Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 67 Rotten: 8
IMDB: 8.2 / 10
Director: Danny Boyle
Producer: Andrew Macdonald
Screenwriter: John Hodge
Starring: Ewan McGregor as Renton, Ewen Bremner as Spud, Jonny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, Robert Carlyle as Begbie, Kelly Macdonald as Diane, Kevin McKidd as Tommy, Peter Mullan as Swanney, James Cosmo as Mr. Renton, Eileen Nicholas as Mrs. Renton, Susan Vidler as Allison, Pauline Lynch as Lizzy, Shirley Henderson as Gail, Stuart McQuarrie as Gavin/US Tourist, Irvine Welsh as Mikey Forrester
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