Tuesday, December 7, 2010


There's black Friday. The Black Death. Blackbeard. Now... BLACK SWAN!!! "I'm molting!I'm molting!!!!"

Part psychological thriller, part horror flick, part claptrap, it looks gorgeous, and dives right in--ballerinas on the edge competing for the big part, the prima dual role in SWAN LAKE. Natalie Portman wasted away to nothing, and dug out all her old ballet technique to fit the bill. Alas, real ballerinas will be screaming at her stiff arms, and slack carriage. The editing attempted to cover Portman's prancing, but I was thoroughly distracted by it. The images are nevertheless arresting, and the situation brutally captured by the overwrought Darren Aronofsky who never saw a plot he couldn't over-dramatize.

I've never seen such a visceral take on Tchaikovsky's ballet. To win the big part, Nina the ballerina must transcend her virginal self--Odette the white swan, and find the evil seductress within--Odile the black swan. This, of course, echoes her relationship with her mother- played by the now shrivelly-lipped Barbara Hershey who has infantilized AND cannibalized little Nina, redeeming her own failed career by feeding off her daughter's success-- AND failure. Wow this is getting deep. Nina must of course break free, leave her girlish ways behind, and grow the hell up. So she has sex with another aspiring prima ballerina played by Mila Kunis-- her girlfriend? her vampy nemesis? her alter ego? HERSELF??!!! All the while she's trying to please another master--her artistic director, played to the diabolical hilt by Vincent Cassel. So has Nina triumphed in the end?? Or what?

Look, BLACK SWAN has tarted up rather standard "coming of age" psychology in pretty fine feathers. Great make-up, costumes, great style. But it's still a bird in some pretty silly sheep's clothing. The ridiculously melodramatic staging of a scene where the past-her-prime prima ballerina (played by a bleary-eyed, maniacally mascara-ed Winona Ryder)publicly retires, had me in stitches. Who was the event planner-- Cruella De Vil? No. Darren Aronofsky.

Loved the cinematography; laughed myself silly over the dancing and denouement. Is it art? Is it garbage? You decide; I already have.
BLACK SWAN is one wild turkey.


  1. Joyce-- THANK YOU for resolving this issue. I saw it with Babs on Sunday. She thought it was HORRIBLE whereas I was on the edge of my seat the entire time (in a good way). She couldn't say why she hated it, but I think you make a really great argument. Still, I loved it. XOXO, E.

  2. Dearest Brilliant Reviewer and White Swan,

    I was downright emabarassed by this "view" of ballet. Acting was dreadful, dancing absurd. Loved the arms-tuned-into-wings, and other terrific visuals. Perhaps my son loved it so because he knew it was ecstacy the doppelganger was putting into Portman's drink. The lesbian sex was also hot. Elsewise, an absurd film. I am suprozed by theimmaturity of the director, in the face of elegant cinematography. Bah, Humbug. I love you.