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Gavin Grades The Movies



Black Swan

I got forwarded an email from my mother that my aunt sent her.  My mother's contribution was simply, "do you know anything about this movie?"  It was in response to my 70-year-old aunt telling my mom that she was going to see Black Swan with a bunch of her friends that were part of the Philadelphia Ballet group she belongs too because they heard it was simply a movie about ballet staring Natalie Portman.  Don't worry.  I swiftly wrote back to my mom warning her that this was a Darren Aronofsky film.  He's the man responsible for The Wrestler, Pi and the scariest, most disturbing movie I've ever seen, Requiem for a Dream.  I also warned her that yes it's true that Black Swan is about ballet, in fact it might even be one of the best films about ballet; but it is also a deeply disturbing psychological horror.  Naturally that makes the movie sound typical, plain and even a little silly.  (It will actually sound even sillier when you hear people say that it chronicles Portman's character transforming into a swan.)  Trust me though, that's a simplistic view of Black Swan and it's cheating the art that is this film.  Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career and a sure thing for an Oscar as the frail and innocent ballerina, Nina.  After getting the lead in Swan Lake, the movie slowly, and I mean slowly, spirals into terror and insanity.  Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Family Guy) and Winona Ryder give great supporting performances but it's Portman's show.  The only competition she has for the spotlight is the rarely seen anymore Barbara Hershey (The Right Stuff, The Natural), who plays Portman's overbearing, almost criminal, mother.  But Portman is the star and shows so much control over her emotions that it astounds.  She also goes through such a metamorphosis from sane and gentle to crazy and violent, that it seems eerily subtle at times.  Be warned though, this is not a film for everybody.  Some people got up and left the theater during my screening.  One was during an incredibly graphic (hot) lesbian sex scene and the other was during a horrifically violent scene involving a nail file.  And that's not even including the before mentioned change into fowl.  But if you can get past all that, you're in for a finely crafted piece of art cinema.  Makes sense that Aronofsky would do this after he did The Wrestler, since both are films about what is considered art by the performers who do it and how they torture their bodies to pull it off.  His direction of the film is his finest work since Requiem for a Dream.  The symbolism and use of iconic images is a little on the nose at times though.  You don't have to be a film major to pick out that there is a reflection in the background of every single scene, Portman's character is always wearing white and Kunis' character is always wearing black, there are stuffed black swans every time there's a scene of attempted transition, etc.; but that's still fine with me.  The real achievement of amazement for me was the cinematography.   The cameras, most of which are handheld, moves like a dancer in the film.  The scenes that involve the dancing itself are not observed from a far by a stationary shot.  We're not meant to feel like the audience while watching this movie.  We're suppose to be one of the dancers, feeling everything from an uncomfortably close perspective.  That way when Nina slips into the abyss, it feels like we're sliding in with her. Black Swan  (Rated R) Gavin Grade: A

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12/26/2010 2:34PM
Black Swan
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12/26/2010 4:22PM
susan
thank you for the great detailed review! I had no interest in seeing this movie and might possibly have been one of those to walk out. but after your comments regarding cinematography and symbolism, I am intrigued. maybe I'll have to wait until it comes out on video so I can take a step back when it gets too intense (and I don't really like "horror" movies).
12/26/2010 8:55PM
Darren Aronofsky Interview For Black Swan ? Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis & Vincent Casse
[...] End Online » Black Swan [...]
01/02/2011 10:23AM
plastic surgeons
Thanks for an idea, you sparked at thought from a angle I hadn’t given thoguht to yet. Now lets see if I can do something with it.
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