Creativity 50 2011: Darren Aronofsky

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Darren Aronofsky runs with this late generation of filmmakers who grew up glued to TV's vast repository of reruns, of "Twilight Zone" and Shaw Brothers kung fu, of "Star Trek" and '70s-era crime narratives, when TV had left its golden period of original entertainment and had become a post-modern well.

And within this class, somewhere between J.J. Abrams' commercial cachet and Quentin Tarantino's campy pulp, sits Mr. Aronofsky and his taste for high and low. The same director behind last year's improbable box-office and critical hit "The Black Swan" was also the man at the helm of "The Wrestler," a fibrous, heartfelt character study. The two films were risks of both art and commerce—a ballet narrative set in society circles of the Met that is actually a horror film was a challenge not only of genre but of its auditors' expectations; "The Wrestler," an earnest, straightforward essay on hubris and age, is the kind of film that rarely finds purchase on the big screen.

But it is, perhaps, Mr. Aronofsky's first movie, "Pi," that epitomizes his inventive, post-modern approach to filmmaking. After graduating high school in his native Brooklyn, Mr. Aronofsky lived on a kibbutz in Israel but left and fell in with a group of Hasidim who fed and sheltered him in exchange for agreeing to Torah lessons every morning. "When I was with them, I saw things that you'd call miracles," he told the website Art Interviews in 1998. Later on, after graduating Harvard, he was surprised to find many of his fellow graduates working on Wall Street, and he took the two moments to create "Pi," which follows a mathematician caught between the number theory mystics devoted to the Kaballah and a cabal of stock market traders in search of a master algorithm.

"There have always been people looking for God," he said. "So I decided to make a film about a search for God. After all, not everyone wants to see Ben Affleck making out with Liv Tyler."

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