@DPW: I won't say Richard Kelly is a bad person. Heck, I don't know the guy and for all I know he's a big ol' sweetheart.
I mentioned that I think one of his films is interesting but, overall, bad. That would indeed be Southland Tales, a film that I think is full of interesting ideas/visuals but overall lacking in the thematic backing to really drive home what it wants to be. I think that, in the writing department, Kelly very much missed the mark. I saw it, bought it, studied it (and continue to study it) and I just think that I've found all I can find. In fact I think I mined that particular film on first viewing, I was just convinced that there was more to it because it was Richard Kelly and there had to be but I ultimately found it a hollow comedy.
I will not defend The Box in any way. I despise that film, but that doesn't make me hate Richard Kelly. I think there are some interesting themes in that one as well but it fell completely flat for me and in fact, as a Matheson fan, I was a bit insulted by it. The treatment of the two leads as people willing to be hollowly selfish (and not as metaphors, just as human beings) left it something I couldn't connect with.
On the subject of mother! I'm kind of torn. I don't think the words "good" or "bad" can apply to the filmmaking, as it is more than competently shot (and in some cases is even quite daring). The sound design is on the level of a David Lynch film, something more interesting than I've seen in awhile. Where it falters is that it tries to be about too many things. It attempts to be an environmental film, a critique of religion, and even a condemnation of the self-centered artist that fancies himself a genius. In many ways the victim is Aronofsky himself, who spends most of the film painting his career as something full of his own cruelty and longing for adoration instead of something to be admired.
When it comes to the misogynistic qualities of the film I think we can go a bit deeper depending on how you look at it (almost said "attack it" but felt that was inappropriate to the conversation). If you look at it as an environmental allegory first and foremost then it's pretty easy to defend, painting the world as a woman we treat like garbage and abuse into the ground as though the only consequence is our own satisfaction and that nothing suffers. If we look at it as a biblical allegory then that also works (the Bible is one of the most aggressive books towards women that exists). If we look at it through the lense of someone critiquing Hollywood...well, Lawrence was a victim of the Fappening and one of the most disturbing moments, where
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they're beating the hell out of her and calling her a whore and a slut
is similar to the things said about her when the imagery came out. Aronofsky clearly has some hangups about his previous relationships and the fact that the introductory image, a woman that looks disturbingly like his ex-wife, is where we start is very indicative of that.
I saw it as an example of maximalist filmmaking. Aronofsky tried to use this as a multilayered film to discuss the very misogyny he's being accused of, and I think his hateful use of the character is meant to be a discussion and not simply him abusing someone onscreen for the sake of being disturbing and garnering attention. He's clearly uncomfortable with the attention he gets from fans, from critics, and from detractors and he's not shy about that.
He did a similar thing in Black Swan, but it was much less violent and allowed the women themselves to gain control. But no matter how you look at mother! there are plenty of ways that it works. I don't think it's either a good or bad film (though it is interestingly written, well paced, well shot, and the sound is phenomenal) but it's fascinating and I actually think the discussion it's seeding is the point.
Perfection is a lifelong pursuit requiring sacrifice. The only way to get it quicker is to sacrifice the most.