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Black Swan (2010)

A 2010 psychological thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky.

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Aronofky's Swan Dive

  • Sep 25, 2010
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.  If you’re serious about ballet, you might be lucky enough to join a company.  Only a select few get to be company soloists though.  And so, lightly prancing about beneath the stage at any given ballet, you will find dozens of girls all striving toward an unattainable goal - some starving themselves and some hoping the soloist will take a bad fall and need replacing at the last second.  It’s a microcosm, ripe with potential for drama and madness, making it the perfect setting for Darren Aronofsky’s latest, BLACK SWAN.

At the film’s start, a single spotlight rises on two feet, tightly wound in the tiniest of slippers.  They begin to dance and as they land one after the other, we can see how delicate ballet is and how tortuous it must be to make it look that good.  When the camera pulls away to reveal that these feet do in fact belong to Natalie Portman, it is clear just how much grace she will bring to this film.  And by the time a beastly creature makes itself known to this frightened dancer, it is clear that Aronofsky is about to, yet again, give us something unlike anything else he’s done.

Portman is Nina, a dancer with the New York City Ballet who has just been cast as the Swan Princess in the upcoming production of “Swan Lake”.  To do so in exactly the manner her director (Vincent Cassel) demands, she must embody the spirit of both the white and the black swan.  Yes, the thematic conflict for this character is obvious at this point but Aronofsky tells it with complex visual style that jetés between jarring and captivating.  And Portman, who has reportedly been in dance lessons since she was a toddler, knows the pressure of the dancer.  She is to tightly wound that by the time her dark side begins to show its face, we are just as ready to release as she is.  It certainly doesn’t help matters that her mother (Barbara Hershey) pressures her to succeed, a new dancer (Mila Kunis) wants her spot and the soloist she replaced (Winona Ryder) wants her just plain gone.

BLACK SWAN is as theatrical and as dramatic as any ballet that I’ve seen performed on stage.  Aronofsky directs but, from behind the camera, he dances alongside the dancers as if he was part of the choreography, forming some hybrid of dance and film that begs repeat performances.  It also warrants a resounding standing ovation.

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December 04, 2010
Great review, I need to go check this out.
December 11, 2010
Thanks. I can't wait to see it again!
December 03, 2010
This sounds beautiful and trippy. I want to watch it! Thanks for sharing, Joseph :)
December 11, 2010
I'm glad I'm able to encourage so many people to see this. So worth it.
December 03, 2010
This looks pretty awesome! And I love Natalie Portman; such a fine actress! Thanks for the review!
December 11, 2010
It looks awesome because it just is. And Portman is lovely.
October 21, 2010
I am ssooo waiting for this one!
October 23, 2010
Aronofsky has got himself a Best Picture contender here.
October 23, 2010
I am so pumped to see this. You will see this and your other TFF reviews highlighted in tomorrow's newsletter. I am so jealous you got to see this in advance.
October 24, 2010
I kinda love seeing movies before other people do. Makes me feel special. :P
September 25, 2010
I'm absolutely dying to see this film. Aronofsky is perhaps my favorite American film director of this generation and his past work has been enthrallling, so I have very high expectations for "Black Swan". I've read some advance reviews and not all of them have been favorable. Still, with Aronofsky at the helm and a cast this good, I don't think I'll be disappointed. Great review.
September 25, 2010
Yeah, when I saw it at TIFF, people were clamoring for seats. Afterward I heard some critic call it a B-movie with a Hollywood budget. In one sense, he's right but it is still an incredible trip. Aronofsky is on a hot streak!
September 25, 2010
I think that he and Christopher Nolan are going to prove themselves to be the most celebrated film directors of the next ten to fifteen years.
September 25, 2010
Yeah, I can't get on board with Nolan there.
September 25, 2010
September 25, 2010
Yeah, really. I thought Inception was lacking in substance and I didn't care much for The Prestige either. Memento I loved and I am a big Dark Knight fan. I think he is a strong director but I'm not sure he has found his stride yet.
September 26, 2010
Yeah, I agree about "Inception" being his weakest film thus far, but I think "The Prestige" is actually one of his strongest and most underrated. There's a lot there that gets overlooked.
October 24, 2010
Much as I liked Inception, I'll have to agree with you guys there. I liked Inception for what it was, but it wasn't exactly mind-bending as most people make it out to be. I liked "Paprika" (the anime) better as with the delivery of the same concept. The Prestige--I remember seeing that movie with my friend's family and he and I were the only ones who kind of liked it. There was something missing there, I need to re-watch it to re-evaluate.
October 26, 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed Paprika as well. Messed up.
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 . March 16, 2011
Black Swan is a wonderful movie, although it is definitely not for everyone. I know I am also late jumping on this bandwagon, seeing as the Oscars are over, but I had to state my claim and wait for my mum's permission to watch it. But waiting was definitely worth it, because Black Swan is a terrific movie. Wonderfully acted, wonderfully directed, and wonderfully intense, if you were expecting an ordinary movie about ordinary ballerinas, then this isn't the movie for you. Instead, its …
About the reviewer
Joseph Belanger ()
Ranked #24
Hello Lunchers. I am a thirty-something guy making his way in Toronto. I am a banker by day and a film critic the rest of the time. Sensitive, sharp and sarcastic are just a few words that start with … more
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About this movie


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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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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Best Picture Nominees 2011


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