The politician Andrew Yang has announced his candidacy for a new role: Mayor of New York City. In his campaign ad, “Why I’m Running,” Yang describes his relationship with the city—going, some might say, a little overboard—and describes his lofty aspirations, including fixing the Knicks, a hollow campaign promise if there ever was one. There’s plenty to dissect about the clip, from Yang’s trademark awkwardness to bizarre cutaways like him playing the piano in front of the Wonder Wheel, but the most notable thing about this video is its director: the divisive auteur Darren Aronofsky. In fact, Andrew Yang has given us more than just another campaign ad to pick apart on Twitter—he has also submitted a new entry into the Aronofsky canon. Let’s break down all the “Aronofsky touches” that pepper the video.
The handheld cam. Nobody loves a handheld cam more than Darren Aronosky—movies like mother! or Black Swan are filmed almost exclusively with one. And what effect does handheld have? It lends that cinéma vérité feel that makes the subject feel mortal and immediate, instead of larger than life. The shots of Yang walking through NYC are gritty. They make Yang seem like he’s One Of Us, and thus a worthy, relatable mayor of NYC, while also positioning him as the city’s savior. Like Batman.
An ambitious, to the point of foolhardy, hero. Whether it’s The Wrestler, whose titular character resumes a profession he’s long since physically aged out of, the psychotically competitive ballerinas in Black Swan, or Noah—yes, the biblical one—the central figures of Aronofsky’s work usually have big dreams with more than a little hubris. I repeat, Yang wants to fix the New York Knickerbockers. And the subway system. Andrew may be Darren’s most ambitious figure yet!
Scarves. Nobody, not even Lenny Kravitz, loves scarves more than Aronofsky. This is a trademark more germane to Aronofsky the Man than Aronofsky the Filmmaker, but I digress: The shot of Yang putting on a scarf as he walks through the city? That has the mythological weight of a superhero suiting up in Aronofsky World.
POV shots. Aronofsky loves to pepper his films with point-of-view shots to put viewers in his protagonists’ mindset—think Natalie Portman’s grueling training scenes with Vincent Cassel in Black Swan or the frenetic perspective shots as Jennifer Lawrence descends into chaos in mother! There are countless shots of Yang gazing at New York landmarks, his family or constituents, an obvious effort to connect Yang to the city and humanize him. One notable scene is Yang in a black barbershop. You mean to tell me this man is visiting this spot any time outside of the campaign trail? He’s clearly trying to win votes, not get a shape up.