Black Swan


Action / Drama / Thriller


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August 31, 2011 at 09:22 PM


Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers / The Swan Queen
Sebastian Stan as Andrew / Suitor
Mila Kunis as Lily / The Black Swan
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy / The Gentleman
564.39 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 48 min
P/S 22 / 245

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by mikelepost 6 / 10

Mediocre and immature

Based on the commercials for Black Swan, I walked into the theater expecting to see a film about a career ballerina who is forced to access her repressed dark side in preparation for her role as the swan queen and cracks under the pressure. Instead, the film I saw was about a meek young woman who's possibly schizophrenic and certainly on the verge of a nervous breakdown from the opening reel. There's no real drama because Nina is already broken. All that's left is for the viewer is to watch her become increasingly unhinged.

Black Swan has a lot of flaws: The conception of Nina (Natalie Portman) is a major problem. No woman this childish and meek would ever last in an elite dance company, so it's highly improbable that the company director (Vincent Cassel) would single her out for the prima ballerina role. We keep hearing about how Nina is technically perfect but clinical and restrained, but we never see any evidence of this fact because Portman is filmed mostly in tight facial close-ups during these scenes, probably to disguise the fact that her dancing isn't so spectacular.

The film is utterly predictable in that Nina becomes increasingly unhinged to the point that we, the viewer, no longer know whether what we're watching is "real" of one of her hallucinations, which greatly resemble horror movie clichés: she's stalked by her doppelganger, her reflection moves with a mind of its own, she imagines mutilating herself, etc. None of these images are particularly inspired and they spell out the theme of the story in the most obvious way.

Black Swan was utterly derivative of other, better movies. I haven't seen The Red Shoes but so much of Nina's relationship with her mother was cribbed directly from The Piano Teacher that Michael Haneke could probably sue Aronofsky for plagiarism. Likewise, the whole angle of Nina's repressed sexuality leading to her breakdown was done better by Polanski in Repulsion, and that was almost 50 years ago. Black Swan is mostly a hodge-podge of better films.

Finally, the film is every bit as Manichean as its title, with only two poles for its characters: perfectly pure and virginal white or the sensual black whore. Nina has a few drinks, masturbates and tells her oppressive mother off, and we're supposed to take this as some sort of exploration of her "dark side." Her rival ballerina Lily (Mila Kunis) literally has black wings tattooed on her back. Could you get any more obvious? I'd suggest that Black Swan works best as high camp and there were some unintended laughs in my theater, but the film is so self-serious and artistically restrained that it's not even gonzo enough to be funny. Mostly it's misery porn that wallows in Nina's suffering without giving the viewer a credible rationale for watching.

Look, the film is well-directed, it looks great, the actors generally deliver good performances despite under-written roles. I've seen many worse films than Black Swan. But in this case the hype is so wildly overblown that I'm tempted to rate the movie even lower than it deserves. Truthfully, this is a 6 out of 10 picture and only slightly better than average.

Reviewed by Colin George 9 / 10

A Swan Dive into Darkness

Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" makes ballet cool—and if that isn't a Herculean feat in itself, I don't know what is. It also happens to be one of the best films of the year, featuring one of the best performances of the year. Natalie Portman will be nominated for her devastating portrayal of petite perfectionist Nina the ballerina or I'll pull a Werner Herzog and eat my shoe.

"Black Swan" is cut from the same cloth as Aronofsky's 2008 film "The Wrestler," if at the opposite end. Interestingly, before either project was realized, the director was reportedly mulling a drama about the relationship between a professional wrestler and a ballerina. Somewhere along the way, however, that concept was split down the middle—and thank God. "Black Swan" is brilliant, but it wouldn't necessarily play well with others.

Like its predecessor, the film examines a physically demanding and widely unappreciated art, and though thematically similar, the two complement each other via mutually exclusive cinematic vernaculars. "The Wrestler" is ultimately a safer film. Its emotional experience is directly conveyed via plot and dialogue. What Aronofsky attempts with "Black Swan" is riskier: he plays genre Frankenstein, taking established themes and transplanting them into that which feels initially least appropriate—horror.

Yet despite certain unmistakable cues, I'd hesitate to call "Black Swan" a horror film. Visually, maybe, but John Carpenter insists "The Thing" is a Western, and likewise there is more to "Black Swan" than is aesthetically obvious. It probably best fits the psychological thriller mold, but as Aronofsky suggests through his manipulation of mirrors, it is not a film that ever casts a clear reflection. For me, that dichotomy is what makes it so fascinating and rewarding.

"Black Swan" strikes an immediate haunting note that seems to grow louder with reverberation rather than quieter. In the first half, the director lays track work; in the second, he runs right off it. Nina begins her journey receiving the coveted role of the Swan Queen in a modernist production of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake." Her practiced technique makes her ideal for the role of the goodly White Swan, but her lascivious director (Vincent Cassel) has reservations about her ability to portray her evil twin, the titular Black Swan—a character that embodies impulse and lust. Nina's process of unlearning takes her to increasingly dark, surreal depths.

The final act of the film comprises the most riveting 40 minutes I've seen on screen all year, though "Black Swan" is never the mindf**k some have improperly labeled it. Aronofsky deliberately builds atmosphere and anticipation toward a Kubrickian climax that is at once obvious and stunning. Tchaikovsky's score falls like an aerial assault, and that inherent theatricality collides with Aronofsky's narrative as they come to a dual boil.

Perhaps best of all, however, is that for all the audacity on display, the director knows when to dial it back as well. The casting of Mila Kunis ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "That 70's Show") was idyllic. She plays a comic relief of sorts, with a comely, down-to-earth veneer but viperous eyes. Her performance is fantastically calculated—she provides derisive, but much needed perspective on Nina's deteriorating sense of reality.

"Black Swan" is a wholly effective work born from the shadowy underside of the mind, anchored by a career-defining turn by Portman. It is a quick, impulsive piece, but it explains artistic devotion and the consuming nature of obsession as well or better than any film I've ever seen. In hindsight, it feels more characteristic of the filmmaker responsible for "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream" than "The Wrestler," though the parallels between it and "Black Swan" run deep.

They may be cut from the same cloth, but the difference between the two is as stark as black and white. Hail Aronofsky, the Swan King.

Reviewed by dpoll390 10 / 10


I had the opportunity to see Black Swan in one of the 18 theaters that it opened up on this weekend, although I generally do not do so, I was compelled to write a review of the film.

From top to bottom, this film is at the height of what it means to be true art in cinema. The various elements of the film, the mise-en-scene, was so incredibly structured by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky that one need only sit back and admire at the fluidity of his camera movement, or the marvelous hue of colors amidst a film which has it's color scheme largely dedicated to the symbolism of black and white.

The performances where spot on, Vincent Cassel was terrific as the suspicious teacher, whose brilliance and lust for the dancers in his show are both quite reputable, one often beating out the other. And Mila Kunis truly shines in this one, bringing out a side of her many probably didn't know was possible. She is absolutely beautiful and aptly portrays the black contradiction to Natalie Portmans white, a terrific contrast of good and evil. Kunis, however, as many may assume, is not meant to be there to spark a general conflict of good vs evil, but to emphasize the side of Portman that we have not yet seen. A side that will drive her to the brink of insanity to obtain.

And therein lies the true theme of the film, obsession and physical strain over all else. Much like "The Wrestler" we have the main character dedicated to an unappreciated form of physical art. Here, it is Portman's obsession with becoming the lead of the ballet Swan Lake which drives her into madness. You enter her mind as her teacher pushes her to become perfect, pushing her to let go of her fragile White Swan and become the loose and destructive Black Swan. As you follow her through the stages of her audition leading towards a booming finale she becomes less and less aware of what around her is distortion and what is reality. As she loses grip, Aronofsky's ability to depict psychological deterioration shines through.

And make no mistake, this film belongs to Aronofsky and Portman. As stated, Aronofsky captures everything beautifully in frame, his movement of the camera is almost as fluent and beautiful as the very dancers on the screen. His use of behind the head vantage shots has been a bit of a trademark of his, allowing as to see what the character is. And his use of lighting is nothing short of extraordinary. But now comes the true star: Natalie Portman. She blew me away, from start to finish, she displayed her transformation for the sweet girl to the physically and psychologically obsessed, all the way through attempting to embody the white and black swan when necessary, literally trying to become them in her mind, driving her towards insanity in the pursuit of perfection. Words cannot describe Portman's performance here, to say it is Oscar worthy would be a vast understatement, as the depth of her character goes so deep it would nearly be worthy of playing two separate roles. So fragile at time that you fear for her life, and so corrupted at others that you hate her. Acting at it's finest, Portman deserves an Oscar.

All things considered the film is nearly perfect, one of the best dramas I've ever seen, and one that is as iconic and intense as it is horrifying at times. Just to mention a few other things, Winona Ryder, in the small amount of screen time she had, was spectacular, and truly terrifying during particular scenes. And as always, when Aronofsky and Clint Mansell team up, the score is both epic and eerie, somehow simultaneously. The overcasting score of a distorted and intense version of Swan Lake itself brilliantly compliments the atmosphere throughout the film as these two artist have done before. It could nearly work as a silent film, that's how brilliant it is. If you get the opportunity once this film undoubtedly expands to other theaters see it, it's harrowing and at times difficult to watch, but that combination of beauty and horror makes it impossible to turn away.

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