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Black Swan (2010)

A 2010 psychological thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky.

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Perfection Has a Price

  • Dec 16, 2010
Rating:
+5
Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” ingeniously merges the spectacle of dance with the base emotions of melodrama, two schools of theatricality that, if done right, are equally demanding. The result is a lurid, daring, and mesmerizing psychological thriller, one that’s founded on the idea that the pursuit of perfection is not a matter of time or effort but of sanity. The line between reality and fantasy is at times easily distinguishable, but at other times is blurred to the point of sheer confusion. It challenges perceptions with questionable events and unreliable characterizations – which, I have no doubt whatsoever, were intentionally written that way. It continuously frightens us, and yet it lures us in with disturbing but beautiful imagery. This is the kind of film you don’t simply watch. You experience it.
 
This could not have been an easy ride for star Natalie Portman. She and Aronofsky must have known that the film’s success would depend entirely on her, for her character doesn’t merely drive the plot but is in fact the plot itself. Not only would she have to be believable, she would also have to be willing to tax herself physically and emotionally – and numerically, assuming you choose to interpret her work as a duel role. She would have to endure six months of ballet training and body toning. It would be a commitment, not an acting job. She was clearly more than qualified to meet these demands; her performance is brave, complex, stirring, and nothing short of extraordinary.
 
Portman plays Nina Sayers, a New York ballet dancer driven by the need to be perfect. She practices rigorously. She rarely eats, and what little she does eat, she throws up. She auditions for the role of the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” which would require her to give a duel performance. The director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), has already told her that he would be featuring her more this season. Still, there seems to be room for improvement; while he sees nothing wrong with her interpretation of the innocent and elegant White Swan, he sees all technique and no passion with the devious and sensual Black Swan. More suited for the latter is Lily (Mila Kunis) a new dancer from San Francisco. She’s everything Nina is not: Relaxed, outgoing, a little bawdy, and embracing of her imperfections.
 
Leroy, lecherous and creepy, tells Nina that she must be seductive as the Black Swan. She must lose herself in the role. She must be in touch with her own body. Nina would know nothing about this. She’s cared for and encouraged by her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer whose expressions of love mask an alarming psychological fixation, one that fuels her artistic abilities and gives no latitude for privacy or trust. Into Nina’s life enters Lily, who seems friendly enough but may actually be plotting to take over the duel role in “Swan Lake.” She eventually understands the plight of Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder), an aging ballerina who was once a great star but has now been replaced.
 
Nina, her rivalry with Lily doubling as a strange friendship, is ultimately consumed with revenge fantasies, ones that get increasingly shocking as the opening night of “Swan Lake” approaches. Little by little, her grasp on reality slips. For no apparent reason, a rash on her shoulder turns into a wound. Does she deal with the stress of attaining perfection by mutilating herself? Her reflection isn’t quite in sync with her body – or perhaps it’s the other way around. Events that seem to have taken place may not have. People who appear may not actually be there, and vice versa. The more Nina’s world unravels, the more we can’t stop watching; reality fades into a hypnotic dreamscape of primal urges. Some are deeply unsettling. Others include a lesbian love scene that would be frightening were it not so sexy.
 
Aronofsky visualizes Nina’s descent in two distinct ways. One is through the use of computer-generated imagery, and while that may be expected in this day and age (perhaps even required), it allows for the inclusion of specific symbols that are necessary to advance the story. The other is through the handheld camera work, giving the film an unsteady look. Close up shots are naturally jerky. He follows characters as they walk from one room to another. He circles dancers in broad, dramatic sweeps during major dance sequences. The images literally move along with the plot. This is what makes “Black Swan” some kind of bizarre masterpiece. It’s a dark and shocking drama that stimulates the senses and plays on emotions.

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December 19, 2010
Very nicely done, Chris!!!
 
December 16, 2010
I loved this movie--it wasn't anything I expected and it turned out to be quite more. Good comment on that love scene. Excellent review!!
 
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More Black Swan (2010 film) reviews
review by . December 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: Dancing With One's Own Personal Reflections....
Last time Darren Aronofsky impressed me this much was with the film “The Wrestler”; it was a cinematic experience that was filled with a methodical approach, careful calculation, character-driven dualism and compelling drama. Yes, admittedly I was excited to see his latest film “Black Swan” and it wasn’t anything I expected it to be and yet it became so much more. This film is tense, taut, filled with dramatic and horrific logic that will stay with you after the end …
review by . December 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Darren Aronofsky has achieved the impossible: he's made ballet cool. Seriously, get rid of the Best Film award and introduce the Made Something Cool That Was Hitherto Completely Uncool award, and then kick Guy Ritchie squarely in the unspeakables for making Sherlock Holmes.      First, he threw out all that ballet shoe shit and went straight for the jugular, combining Heath Ledger's Joker with Tyler Durden from Fight Club to give us "holy crap it's Natalie Portman": …
review by . January 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I don't admit to being a big Darren Aronosfky fan.  I enjoyed Pi and Requiem for a Dream, but he never became a director that I thought was worth putting on my radar.  He makes intriguing films to be certain, but Black Swan was the first time I saw one of his films and felt blown away by it.  Like I'd just sat through something magical, simple and yet very complex at the same time.  It has its moments where it goes overboard, scenes that go to extremes that, for the most …
review by . January 31, 2011
Ballet is an interesting activity. When done right, it can be mesmerizing and impressive as hell. The physical demands placed on the dancers are enormous (I recall reading a book that described ballet dancers as all being “half-crazed with hunger”), and I can only imagine how heavy the psychological burden must be, especially if you’re not the most stable person in the world to begin with. That’s situation in which a young dancer (Natalie Portman), finds herself in Black …
review by . January 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Haunted! HUNTED!
It’s no theatrical tricks but it certainly set the mood for the entire film. It’s seldom at first scene that I have an idea how to start a review, much less right at the very beginning of the show. Granted, I’ve read a couple of reviews here and there on this movie but I have managed to steer clear of knowing exactly what the movie entails. I know I don’t feel comfortable starting this movie, even though it has tempted me since I got hold of the dvd copy. I managed to steer …
review by . May 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I got this movie on DVD, which was good because even after you watch it, you need to go back and look at certain scenes again to try to determine if they were real or imagined. Portman is a profession ballet dancer vying for the starring role in a new version of Swan Lake in Lincoln Center. Portman is pushed forward by her domineering mother, who herself was a ballerina and keeps reminding Portman that she needed to retire at 28 to raise Portman.    Age is a continuing factor …
review by . April 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****       "Black Swan" is a paragon of psychological filmmaking; a wild melodrama, which was simply made for the sake of its own unique existence. The project was ambitious, and in some ways, I couldn't have seen it working. A film like this being this good just doesn't seem impossible, but then again, go ahead and try telling director Darren Aronofksy what's "impossible". I don't think that the man believes in the word. He's been making films for over …
review by . May 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
When i first saw the commericals for this movie it looked good, but then again its about ballet dancers....booooring right? WRONG! I was shocked and amazed at how much i liked this movie. It was enthralling, sexy, and at some points outright creepy. The movie starts off with Nina, a dancer in the new york ballet who is looking for her break into stardom after being out of the spotlight for several years with the company. When her boss announces that their current star will be retiring and he will …
review by . December 19, 2010
BLACK SWAN is the story of a ballerina driven to insanity by her drive to succeed and to be perfect. It's also one of the more purely fascinating movies of 2010. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career as Nina, the dancer. Nina has been with the professional ballet company headed by Thomas (Vincent Cassel) for a number of years, and she's hoping this will be the year she gets a lead role. He's reviving SWAN LAKE, and needs a new White Swan/Black Swan. Nina is a technically proficient …
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Aronofky's Swan Dive
BLACK SWAN   Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin   Directed by Darren Aronofsky   Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder      Thomas Leroy: Perfection is not just about control.  It is also about letting go.      From my understanding, to be a true ballerina, one must always strive for perfection.  Your toes, your torso, your lines must be just so.  …
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Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #2
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Wiki

Black Swan is a 2010 American psychological thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky. The film stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as ballet dancers in a New York City production of Swan Lake. The production requires a ballerina to play both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan. Nina (Portman) fits for the White Swan, Lily (Kunis) fits for the Black Swan, and the two compete for the parts. Aronofsky and Portman first discussed the project in 2000, and after a brief attachment to Universal Pictures, Black Swan was produced in New York City in 2009 under Fox Searchlight Pictures. Notable figures from the ballet world helped with film production to shape the ballet presentation. The film is set to premiere as the opening film for the 67th Venice International Film Festival in September 2010. The film will have a limited release on December 1, 2010.

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Details

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: December 1st, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Protozoa Pictures, Phoenix Pictures, Fox Searchlight
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