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How to Prepare Black Swan

December 4, 2010

Start with 6 cups of The Wrestler Stock, using Natalie Portman and ballet as your base in lieu of Mickey Rourke and entertainment wrestling.

Two cans of diced Robert Altman’s The Company

Chop up one bunch of Notes on a Scandal

1 clove of Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

Add 2 tsps each of Showgirls, Fight Club, The Machinist, and Carrie

A pinch of Requiem for a Dream

Garnish with The Page Turner, serve in Oscar bait bread bowl.

For a more detailed review, click below and I promise I won’t give it all away.

I like Darren Aronofsky.  Yes, not all films were winners, but I remember almost everything about The Fountain, which is more than I can say for many less terrible films.  I also really like Aronofsky’s cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, whose work in Requiem for a Dream is why I thought I would want to see it again, though the content is too much to bear a second time.  Black Swan is not for those with a weak stomach either.

Aronofsky’s last movie, The Wrestler, made us intimate with the body of Rourke’s wrestler and the lengths he pushes himself to sustain his career.  Black Swan is no different, and for the first hour I thought it was going to be a redux, The Ballerina.  I was totally fine with that.  The camera hangs back just over Portman’s shoulder as she walks through the streets, lingers on her ankles and feet as she rehearses over and over again, we are learning the tics and habits of her body and then suddenly the stakes get higher.  The company director gets crasser, the mother gets more controlling, and then the hallucinations begin.  

Black Swan features a good old-fashioned unreliable narrator, and perhaps this is why I enjoyed this movie so much.  Her perception of reality is constantly shifting out from under her and us simultaneously, but we both know it, there are no silly “gotcha” tricks about it.  The scene where her psychological breaking point is stretched thinnest is mesmerizing and terrifying in the familiarity of its portrayal of dark hallucinations.  Portman plays Nina Hayes with the same raw authenticity we saw in Rourke, which in this case means sometimes she is a terrible person, in the next breath she is empathetic, you see the results of her toxic environment, and you know it’s a tragedy, the music is telling you so.   Clint Mansell’s score is a reinterpretation of Tchaikovsky’s music and in other movies so much scoring would feel too heavy, but Black Swan wears it well.

Look, it’s not a perfect movie — I could have done with a little less of the incessant “she’s so frigid” talk and Vincent Cassel’s version of ballet instruction is a bit like Lisa Simpson’s tappa-tappa-tappa teacher.  And seriously, there will be blood if you see this movie, the sort that comes spurting from ripped hangnails and oozing from broken toes.   But Barbara Hershey  takes her Rachel Getting Married character and emulates Piper Laurie’s mothering of Sissy Spacek, then Winona Ryder pops up giving the entire cast of Girl, Interrupted a run for their money with her final hospital scene.  I was even pleasantly surprised that the girl from That 70s Show did alright as the rival dancer.

If you like most of the ingredients in the recipe above, I highly recommend a theatre showing of Black Swan this weekend.  It’s cheaper than a night at the ballet but has all the music, melodrama, and tragedy.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. hsofia permalink
    December 4, 2010 12:19 am

    Does it have good dancing? I am a sucker for a dance movie. I’ve seen The Company half a dozen times.

  2. December 4, 2010 12:29 am

    No, it does not. In fact, one of the amazing feats of the camera is staying with the shot in a way that stay tight to the face and never the body — I got the feeling both Portman and Kunas had previous dance experience, but nowhere near what would be necessary to fake for who they were portraying. So you don’t see lots of dancing, but it feels like lots of dancing, if that makes sense.

  3. hsofia permalink
    December 4, 2010 12:53 am

    Hmm. That might do. I’ve seen a decent amount of live ballet … maybe enough to fill in the blanks with my imagination. It sounds like good melodrama in any case!

  4. December 4, 2010 1:04 am

    I suspect most anyone who enjoys dance movies (like me!) would get drawn into this pretty readily.

  5. December 4, 2010 3:14 am

    I saw a review that said this was like Showgirls meets Suspiria. So I am all over that shit!

  6. December 4, 2010 6:24 am

    Garnish with The Page Turner, serve in Oscar bait bread bowl.

    LOL!!! I like to add a sprinkling of De Palma’s Dressed to Kill and Phantom of the Paradise. God, Black Swan looks like all kinds of good in a hot messy kind of way. Maybe a little Basic Instinctish, no?

  7. December 4, 2010 6:28 am

    Vincent Cassel’s version of ballet instruction is a bit like Lisa Simpson’s tappa-tappa-tappa teacher.

    Yes! I was hoping that would be the case. I love Tappa Tappa Tappa!

  8. December 4, 2010 6:35 am

    This sounds like a movie about dance like Psycho is about hotel management.

  9. December 4, 2010 8:53 am

    Suspiria!! oooh, good call. I’ve only seen clips of that film for a class, now I want to watch the whole thing.

    the movie is a bit like an opera — totally over the top, but sincere moments of deep pathos at times. mostly it’s just hella fun to watch.

  10. December 4, 2010 10:25 am

    Now I’m really bitter that my one theatre podunk town hasn’t gotten this in, because it’s raining and a matinee would really have hit the spot today. This sounds delicious.

  11. December 4, 2010 12:01 pm

    @Snarky: you could make a Black Swan drinking game based on every time Vinnie says variations of “you need to let go” or “let yourself lose control”.

  12. December 4, 2010 2:52 pm

    I’m still frightened by this film and I’m not sure even this magnificent review is enough to make me actually go to a theater and see it. I might have to wait for the DVD so I can take breaks from all of the mayhem!

  13. hsofia permalink
    December 5, 2010 11:35 pm

    Okay, now I’m a little skeered if it’s supposed to be like Suspiria. Argento is scary! I need to reconsider seeing this movie at night by myself or else it will be a tense walk back to the car or bus stop.

  14. December 6, 2010 12:56 pm

    Portman was attached to a remake of Suspiria so perhaps this is in fact it. LOL. I forgot that B movie also ran Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise, Shock Treatment) stars in this movie. Omg, I love her.

  15. hsofia permalink
    December 14, 2010 12:05 am

    Okay, I wouldn’t say the movie is scary, but it is intense and there was a lot of eye-covering going on in the first half. I very much liked the movie.

  16. evmaroon permalink
    December 23, 2010 3:05 am

    THAT WAS BARBARA HERSHEY? Get outta town! Really amazing film. I am flapping my arms—all the way from the cinema to my car.

  17. December 26, 2010 5:46 pm

    I know, right? I didn’t place Hershey until 2/3 into it!!! So glad you enjoyed the movie too.

  18. Q.V. permalink
    April 21, 2011 12:50 am

    I saw this after a live cover concert of Dark Side of the Moon, then I biked home in the rain. I’m glad I did all of those alone because it’s not a kind of evening that needs to be talked about. Much mouth-covering (my version of eye-covering) and a very tense time.

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