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Donnie Darko (2001)

What I love about revisiting films you haven't seen in a long time is when they have an impact on you, like never before. That's exactly what this rewatch of Donnie Darko did for me, and I regret going to it with such trepidation, because it's one of those films that just gets better and better with each viewing. I can't give too much away about it's plot, but I'll tell you it's about a deeply disturbed teenager who begins to get visions of a man in a bunny suit and begins to make startling revelations about the world around him.

I forgot just how brilliant this film is. Beautiful, disturbing, intriguing... and ******* funny. It amazed me how many laughs it elicited from me. Whether it came in the form of Kitty Farmer's PC babbling (You don't even believe in Sparkle Motion!), or the hilarious, sort of parody of Jim Cunningham's self help tapes, or just some of Donnie's wild behaviour (the first hypnosis scene is my personal favourite), it was just incredibly funny to me, because of how absurd a lot of it was.

However, these laughs begin to feel guilty soon after, because Richard Kelly follows up these comedic moments with moments of amazing, unsettling power. Witness the atmospheric, almost horror-film like scene in the movie theater, or the sounds of Duran Duran's "Notorious" fading into a deeply disturbing score. Donnie's interactions with Frank the rabbit usually prove to be the most eerie, but one must take into account scenes which demonstrate Richard Kelly's skill as a director, such as an introductory tracking shot through Donnie's school, which introduces and establishes primary characters without them saying a word (set to Tears For Fears "Head Over Heels").

While you've got this incredibly complicated and fun-to-decipher story thread about time travel and the end of the world, I felt this film was more about the high school experience. It's about Donnie trying to make his way through a world that he doesn't understand, but at the same time doesn't understand him. Sounds familiar. There's something incredibly satisfying about watching him act out, insult bitchy teachers, vandalise property and get away with it. He's almost like an unsung, high school antihero.

If you like your films to come with the title "mindfvck", your search is over. The aforementioned complicated storythread about time travel, rabbits and the end of the world requires full audience participation, and trying to decipher is part of the film's appeal, strength and rewatchability. It's incredibly mysterious and a helluva lot of fun to watch, as you try to figure out (not some director's cut that explains the whole thing to you) what all this cryptic ***** means. Reflecting on the film's loose ends is almost as fun as watching the film itself.

I plead with you, if you're going to watch Donnie Darko, watch the theatrical cut, not the director's cut. I recently met James Duval (Frank the rabbit) and amongst other things, I asked what cut of the film he prefers. He said the theatrical cut, because it's more mysterious and much more enjoyable to figure things out. I have to agree. Watching Donnie Darko in it's original form is the only way to get the full and the greatest experience.