Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky, who has wowed us with Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and The Fountain, is pulling in frenzied, rave early reviews for his ballet-centric thrill ride Black Swan.  The film will be released nationally in early December, but has been riding high on the festival circuit where critics and bloggers have taken to pronouncing the film, and Natalie Portman's performance, as all sorts of brilliant.  Portman plays Nina Sayers; a shy, emotionally vulnerable ballerina with a narcissistic, overly protective mother and some implied psychological damage.  Nina's life is ballet.  She lives and breathes it.  Her days are little more than practicing, puking, and moving to and from Lincoln Center dreaming of the day she will dance Swan Lake as The Swan Queen.  Miraculously, when her New York Company's prima ballerina (Winona Ryder) is forced into early retirement, Nina is given that chance.  She embodies the White Swan, but ballet director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) insists he does not yet see the loose seductiveness of the evil twin Black Swan in Nina's performance.  Nina, possessed by a desperate quest for her own perfection, becomes fixated on Lily (Mila Kunis) a newcomer in the dance company whom she associates with the malicious Black Swan and who thus becomes both threat and obsession.  In many ways, what Aronofsky has done is adapt Swan Lake itself for 21st century, urban consumption.  A little Red Shoes here, a little Showgirls there, just a touch of Suspiria with a dose of MDMA.  The ingredients make for a devil of a film.  Black Swan is a fragile, delirious fairy tale that effectively toes the line between real and unreal.  Nina suffers for her art.  She pushes herself to her breaking point.  For the audience, however, it's hard to know where that breaking point lies.  Is Nina's experience fact or fiction?  Do we lose her early on?  Are we witnessing an elaborate fantasy or a chilling reality?  Does it even matter?  .......



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