Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Black Swan

I saw “Black Swan” the other night. I won’t say too much about it, except that I loved it. But then again, it’s about a performing artist dealing with demons and ballet, so it was kind of a done deal. Natalie Portman is brilliant, and I’m sure she’ll be nominated for an Oscar. That she was dancing (beautifully) while playing a character expressing herself in dance trying to find her way into playing a ballet character is incredible; I would have had difficulty enough just being on point. To think that she’d doing all that while balancing her weight on a block of wood….

The movie is intense, thrilling. Aronofsky’s direction is passionate, and the way he films dance is full of emotion – the camera is on stage with the dancer, moving with her. When it’s not it’s intense close-up or full body to get a sense of the movement. The storytelling has a trippy feel to it – you’re never sure what’s happening. It’s apt for the madness that the character is slipping into, and illustrative of the black swan/white swan dialectic that’s set up. It’s frenetic and intimate. Mila Kunis is great as well – actually all the cast is uniformly good; Barbara Hershey especially works playing a mother who could possibly be out of a horror movie. In fact, some friends I saw it with felt it had too much of that element, but I disagree. It’s all working to put the audience as deeply off-balance as the character.

I like intense performance, though – Patti Smith, Karen Finley, etc – anyone who feels like they are going to some other place while performing. I guess that’s what most performers aspire to, but some just seem to push a little more deeply and/or hysterically. Refer back to the Ginsburg thing - ecstasy, trance, intensity - a little much at times, but can also transcend like nothing else. Dance, it seems, is one of the easiest places for that to happen - breaking free/breaking down.

Loved the movie. There’s one moment that was so breathtaking that I’m going back just to see it. I hope she wins the Oscar.


Elizabeth said...

I am so looking forward to seeing this movie -- even more so after your review.

By the way, I think I read an article about it, and Natalie Portman danced a bit but had a double for most of the serious dancing.

Criticlasm said...

Huh--I know she had a double, but according to her and Aronofsky at the Q & A, she did 90% of it. Plus there's a lot of full body stuff where it's apparent that it's her. She said there were a few things she couldn't do, but the majority is actually her. It certainly looked like it from the full body stuff in the film, too.

Criticlasm said...

She also trained for a full year before shooting - dancing 5 hours a day and then six months additional cross training with swimming and weights. Intense.

Elizabeth said...

O.K. I saw the movie last night. It was unsettling -- I loved the dance and the nutso quality of it -- dream sequences, etc. But the horror aspect was awful and B. Hershey truly frightening in every way. I can't say that I loved the movie -- I left completely creeped out.

Criticlasm said...

I can see that. I liked the horror-y elements, I guess. And I just loved Portman's performance, and the mania of being pushed to create a role like that. I thought the dance at the end was exultant, and it really mirrored how disturbing a tale the "fairy" tale is - a lot of HCAnderson is really disturbing. Loved the moment she became a swan.

Ace Hart said...

I just came across this blog by hitting the "Next Blog" button a few times but I saw what you focused on and I must say, they are some of my favorite things to talk deeply about and I'm glad I've got someone who studied in college about it to talk to [or comment on rather].

I absolutely loved this film although it was very conflicting in some themes. My first recognition of true brilliance within its themes was the conflicting "villain". While the audience would assume the director of the ballet (whose name escapes me) would fill the role, I found him to be the voice of reason and balance. That voice says "Sometimes its alright to give into that temptation in order to stay sane." The true villain however is up to the audience individually. A mother of three, including a teenage female would be quick to point the fingers at the Mila Kunis character. That female teenager would point the finger at the mother character. The psych/English major graduate student might point the finger at the environment of the ballet business and society's expectations of young women. And there is someone out there who would blame the tempting side of Nina. Like I said, it's all up to the person watching it.

No one should really question the movie's brilliance. I can normally stand horror movies by believing "Hey, it's not real, no need to worry." but for this film, I was squirming the whole time. One specific moment that creeped me out more than any others was when the mother was cutting Nina's finger nails. The director and audio supervisor must have spent a lot of attention on those few seconds because I was cringing and wincing that entire time, feeling as though the same thing was happening to me. That organic sensation of being in the movie is definitely magical and it's what brings me back to the films in which I can experience that thrill.