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Trainspotting: The Scots and their heroin

Continuing with our British theme of late, I thought I’d come clean with you. Up until last week I had never seen Trainspotting. I know, I know. For shame. To be fair, I didn’t start watching rated R films with reckless abandon until the fall of 2002 and I had a lot of catching up to do. But Trainspotting had been on my list, near the top even, for at least five years. Oddly enough I saw Requiem for a Dream many years ago. It would be easy to compare the two films, but despite their mutual focus on drug addiction, and in particular heroin, they are vastly different. Trainspotting has a much firmer grip on reality with less emphasis on the trip itself and a tendency to be distasteful in a decidedly Scottish way, yet both maintain a horribly bleak anti-drug message. I imagine if either one of these films were shown to junior high schoolers heroin would not be seeing the come back it is today. But I digress.

I was successful in maintaining my strict blank slate policy before seeing Trainspotting, which I think is pretty impressive for a 15 year old film. I think the poster slash VHS and DVD cover played more than a minor role in this, but that’s neither here nor there. Though it might be over there. I was surprised to see a very young, very talented Ewan McGregor as the lead, but I was more surprised to see Dr. Nicholas Rush sporting a porno mustache and spouting off in a Scottish accent thicker than mutton stew. They eat mutton stew in Scotland don’t they? That brings me to another point. For my fellow Stargate Universe fans out there, and please note that season 1 was the most horrifying experience of my SG life, I have a question. If you some how made it to season 2, and God bless you if you did because I only made it after a six month sabbatical and a complete skip over the end of season 1, is it just me or did Robert Carlyle start laying the accent on thicker as the show went on? I swear his accent was nearly undetectable when they first dialed up that 9th chevron. Oh my. I’m doing it again. This is clearly the digression hour this week.

Begbie closeup from Trainspotting

I've got work ta do, now you cunts gonna let me do it?

Back to McGregor for a bit. Obi-Wan was in fact so excellent in Trainspotting that film should be set apart from all other McGregor films and treated as a separate entity entirely. The movie was arguably the launch pad for his career and as Danny Boyle’s father says, often your first work is your best work. Obviously we can not ask McGregor to shoulder the brunt of the blame for the debacle that was Phantom Menace, but he did the movie no favors. He was good in Big Fish, and his singer was acceptable in Moulin Rouge, but I couldn’t tell you who he played in Black Hawk Down and don’t even get me started on Men Who Stare at Goats. But in Trainspotting McGregor is real. He’s funny, he’s scary, he’s believable. Maybe he does better when his accent blends in with everyone else’s. Whatever it is, I’d like to see more of it. I’ve always respected him as an actor who was perhaps a bit awkward, but in Trainspotting he was spot on.

While I may have been slightly surprised by the collection of talent, including the big-eared guy from Snatch, I was completely taken off guard by the high quantity of feces and man vegetables. I haven’t squirmed in my seat so much during a movie since I had to go to the bathroom right when Frodo finally got to Mount Doom. It takes a lot to gross me out. Well, it takes a lot of blood and guts to gross me out, but it only takes a little poo or vomit. Have these foul bodily discharges come in close proximity with others’ faces and I all but lose it. I have to admit, I never got around to reading Gravity’s Rainbow, so seeing a grown man first sit on then dive headfirst into the most disgusting toilet I have ever seen has a way of wrenching my stomach in such a way that puts me in danger of projectile vomiting on my TV. And I like my TV. My father-in-law gave it to me as a Christmas gift so he could watch sports when he came to visit. It’s a good one. The male nudity is not something I find particularly offensive, it’s just something I’m never quite prepared for. I could have gone my whole life without knowing what Obi-Wan Kenobi looked like naked. I would have considered my life full and complete without it. The same could be said for Graham Chapman. There are some things in life that simply cannot be unseen. At least not until we live in the world of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Some people might call that a frivolous use of technology. Some people are fools.

On a similar note, in what direction do you expect your career to go when you have a nude scene in your first major motion picture? McGregor has done alright, but which of you has ever heard of Kelly MacDonald? No I haven’t seen the last Harry Potter movie, so shush. But she was in Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke and a movie called The Loss of Sexual Innocence if that’s any indication. Palahniuk’s books would also fall on the list of things I’d erase ala Eternal Sunshine. Seriously. Have you read Haunted? I will never think of suppositories the same again.

Now where was I? Oh right. Heroin addiction. Trainspotting is superior to Requiem because Requiem for a Dream is nothing but horror and depression while Trainspotting takes a lighter approach. It’s at times very, very funny and it succeeds in telling a story beyond simple heroin addiction. Not that heroin addiction is simple, but Requiem is laser focused on the horror of addiction and little else. Which is why I found it very odd that a friend of mine in college said it was his all time favorite film. He wasn’t an exceptionally odd fellow, in fact it is thanks to him that I am now an avid tea drinker. But Trainspotting is simply the better movie. It’s more engaging. It’s more human. Requiem is art for art’s sake. Trainspotting is a depiction of humanity. Not that it’s a worthwhile comparison.

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