Now showing on cable: “Black Swan”

Premiering… recently… (LOL, I’m sorry, lay off me!!) on Cinemax was last year’s highly acclaimed film, Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”.

“Black Swan” is the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballet dancer who covets the prestigious role of the Swan Queen in her company’s production of “Swan Lake”. The role is demanding, and challenging for her, and not just physically. The performance is a dual role… She needs to be able to portray the virginal, innocent, white swan, but also the seductive, evil, black swan. She is criticized for having the technical proficiency, but lacking the emotional conveyance necessary to perform the black swan portion of the role.

The pressure begins to… get to her.

The role of the black swan is challenging for Nina because she, like the white swan, is an innocent young woman. Its obvious she’s led a sheltered existence. So as the movie begins, she’s shown to be under conflicting influences… her mother is overbearing and over protective, but her producer insists on pressing her sexual and sensual limits in order (in part at least) to aid her performance. And adding to the stress she’s under, she has to deal with two other ballerinas. The one she’s replacing as the company’s lead, and the new girl who may have all of the qualities she lacks.

As she earns and prepares for the role, Nina begins to have strange experiences. Flashes of hallucinations, psychosomatic injuries, nervous episodes… It’s readily apparent that Nina is becoming unglued. She is clearly unbalanced by the weight of it all. As she loses herself in the role, she begins to lose herself… in the role.

In spite of it all, Nina presses on, pushing herself harder and harder as the performance approaches. She tests her limits, her endurance, and her grip on reality. It all culminates in an astonishing finale which brings together the onstage production, Nina’s confrontation with her rivals and her obstacles, and the final stages of her struggle with her sanity.

It’s mind blowing.

This is a role for which Natalie Portman deservedly won an Oscar. She does an incredible job of conveying her character’s fragile emotional state. Frightened, repressed, disturbed, aroused, angered, this is anything but an easy role to pull off. But Portman whirls and twirls and tiptoes and dances her way through, acting her ass off every step of the way. She’s completely incredible here, her performance alone is a reason to watch this movie. Dazzling.

Darren Aronofsky is undoubtedly one of the most artistic, thought provoking directors working today. I’ve yet to see “Pi”, but “Requiem for a Dream”, “The Fountain”, and “The Wrestler” are each excellent films, and well worth checking out if you haven’t already. This movie is certainly no exception. It’s suspenseful, engrossing, occasionally erotic, and ultimately astonishing. It’s loaded with symbolism and thematically rich. He gets amazing work out of everyone involved, and spins the camera around the copius amounts of ballet in the film as if it were a participant itself in the dance.

A++ Undeniable Classic.

17 thoughts on “Now showing on cable: “Black Swan”

  1. (Spoilers)

    Have you read into any of the internet theories regarding this film yet? Some people have some pretty interesting and intriguing takes on the film, like Nina’s mother molesting her / causing all of her distress for example.

    /Film breaks it down pretty nicely here:

    Really enjoyed all the layers to this film, it’s definitely something I’ve been meaning to re-watch for the longest time now.

  2. Excellent review of an excellent film! Only thing I might have pointed out was Winona Ryder’s amazing performance in her small, but important role. When I saw the movie, it took me a bit to even realize it was her. Her acting was spot-on and smooth, not over-the-top and forced as she can sometimes be.

  3. I saw Black Swan at the London Film Festival last year and it had to have been the tensest film experience I ever had. That’s not a bad thing – it’s just how involved I got into the film while watching!

    It’s superb and repeat watchings make it better. Little things you didn’t notice before. Love it.

  4. A very creepy film, with a couple of great performances from the whole cast but I still didn’t really feel as on-the-edge with it as others did. I knew what was going to happen because the film made it so clear that Swan Lake would mirror Nina’s life and they tell you what happens at the end of that play, which is what totally took me out of the film. However, maybe it’s just me. Good review my man Dan.

  5. I loved this film when I first saw it, and I still do, but not nearly as much as I did on my first viewing. Mainly because it’s hard to get all that invested in it. Like, it’s about a girl who’s crazy, who then goes crazier. It’s still an expertly crafted film with an amazing performance from Natalie Portman (maybe her best one, though I still love her in Leon). I wouldn’t mind the lack of attachment as much if the film had something deeper to say instead of just the pressures of trying to be perfect. Plus, I do feel like some of the praise for the film was a but much. No, it wasn’t the best film of 2010, it’s not even as good as Aronofsky’s previous film (The Wrestler). I know it sounds like I’m being super hard on this film, and I am, but only because it is as good as it is. I still really like it, I just don’t love it as much as I did on my first viewing.

  6. I have to agree with you, I really enjoyed this film too, though it was my mother who dragged me to it… talk about awkward, right? I was definitely wondering what was going on until the very end and felt like I was a little crazy seeing things with how she’d randomly see strange figures out of nowhere. Plus, I’ll admit it, I closed my eyes a few times too. I got a hint to when I should when the music got all creepy.

  7. I wrote a paper about it last year, so I got the chance so analyze the different layers and, the more you watch it, the more it grabs and drags you into darkness. The use of reflective surfaces and mirrors are just staggering.

    Gosh, you’ve reminded me how much I loved this movie… I’m probably going to write my next post about it!

  8. Pingback: Black Swan (2010) «

  9. I’m actually somewhat interested in seeing it for a third time; it was my #1 film for 2010, something I watched twice in theaters, and I think one of Aronofsky’s most accomplished productions to date, but I’m curious to see if it holds up. I grant that it’s only been about a year.

    I think he nails every plane he sets his sights on; costume design is spectacular, the cinematography is effectively unsettling and lush and energetic, and he gets amazing performances out of an admittedly talented cast of actors and actresses. Maybe it’s Portman’s show more than Aronofsky’s, though; she’s mesmerizing and probably the best reason to check it out.

    I remember being incredibly surprised at the level of gruesome stuff here, and the sheer volume of psychological horror on display. It definitely threw me off and shattered. my expectations.

    • Yeah, no doubt. Some REALLY kind of gross stuff with the transformations and whatnot.

      You’re right about it maybe being Portman’s show, she’s incredible here.

      I think it’ll hold up for you, I know I was as impressed with it seeing it again in order to write this up…

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