Requiem for a Dream
Rating: * * * * 1/2 Director: Darren Aronofsky Running time: 102 minutes Language: English Opens July 7 at Cine Saison in Shibuya

An AP report the other day told of a Beijing teenager who jumped four stories to his death while attempting to sneak out to a local Internet cafe. His parents had locked him in his room after he'd spent three straight days and nights online. His father said that the once-model student became "a changed person" after discovering the Net. And they say drugs are bad.

Addiction comes in many forms, and director Darren Aronofsky ("Pi"), with his film "Requiem for a Dream," shows that the legal ones can be as devastating as the illegal. Based on the novel by bummer author supreme, Hubert Selby Jr. ("Last Exit to Brooklyn"), "Requiem" may be a "junkie flick," but it's certainly not the next "Trainspotting." In lieu of black humor and choosing life, we're immersed in an illusory visual trip and a slow spiral into madness and death. But Aronofsky's power is such that he knocks you on your ass and keeps you there, jaw agape, fixated on his star-crossed characters till death do you part.

Did somebody say "fix"? That's where the story begins and ends, in search of a fix, the junkie's vampiric need for self-medication. The "why" here is barely addressed; the "is" reigns supreme. Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto, "Fight Club") is a junkie, and we first see him "borrowing" his mother Sara's TV to pawn for some quick cash for a score. Sara (Ellen Burstyn), a lonely widow in a retirement home, is about as addicted to the tube as her son is to dope. "This isn't happening," she says, locking herself in a closet, her words eerily mirroring the "escape" from reality that supposedly turns people to drugs.