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Shock System: 'Requiem for a Dream' and 'Quills'

Ellen Burstyn and Geoffrey Rush’s performances are Oscar-worthy, but will their films be too startling to Academy voters?

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”One person collapsed during the film,” says director Darren Aronofsky, recalling a response to his mind-bending Requiem for a Dream in Toronto. ”His eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out. I’m serious. The paramedics took him away.” If the Artisan film can provoke such a reaction from a shockproof fest audience, what happens when Academy voter Jack Lemmon screens it? Requiem is generating early Oscar buzz — especially for Ellen Burstyn’s fearless swan dive into psychosis — but observers fret that Academy traditionalists might be repelled by the more graphic scenes. ”The greatest thing I’ve ever been involved in is capturing her performance,” Aronofsky says of Burstyn. ”But the film is what the film is.” Same goes for Quills: Philip Kaufman’s Marquis de Sade drama (and Geoffrey Rush’s deft performance) got good word at the Telluride Film Festival, but will the Academy hail a movie about the father of sadism? ”Everyone tends to think the Oscar voters are old and conservative,” counters Rush. ”But films like Midnight Cowboy were embraced by the Academy — and that was X-rated. They’re not averse to films with strong debates at the center of them.”