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Darren Aronofsky happens to be one of my favorite directors; so maybe this leans towards biased, but that is what happens sometimes.
I found Black Swan to be a very interesting study of human vs. herself. The movie follows Natalie Portman’s character Nina as she struggles to achieve the and ultimately gain the roll of the Swan Princess Odette but also have enough mental capacity to play the alternate roll of the antagonist of Odile, the Black Swan in the famous ballet of Swan Lake.. In this character evolution, she begins to hallucinate that Lila (another character in the movie) is ‘out to get her’ while balancing displacing a previous dancer who had gone past her prime.
While I plan on watching this movie several more times, I can tell you where Mr. Aronofsky fell flat. Typically, he is very good at using color for a theme or symbol. In Black Swan, there were a lot of attempts made to maintain the black and white suggestive coloring throughout the movie. It looked half-hearted and poorly sustained. The ballet’s directors home and the theater where it is performed are both drenched in deco-balanced black and white and sometimes gray color themes, but unlike The Fountain’s use of orange, or even The Matrix’s use of green, this movie attempts a desaturation kind of like what was used in Tom Ford’s A Single Man to create a visual sensitivity to color when it is important. It seems as though Aronofsky didn’t find anything significant other than Nina’s transformation. I suppose it was just a little more of an obvious use than I’d have liked.
One thing that I really enjoyed in this movie was that painfully relentless feeling of doom that Darren was able to achieve in Requiem for a Dream’s “Winter” sequence. He never lets up you from the floor. I was missing that in The Fountain and The Wrestler. While both of those movies were gorgeous and well told stories, they didn’t visually assault you outside of Mickey Rooney stapling his back and Hugh Jackman’s stab wound. In Black Swan there is a 20 minute transformation scene that left me clinging to my seat and my girlfriend’s arm. Natalie Portman, in my opinion is a good actress. Not great, but good. She doesn’t push herself enough, but I do think her performance here may have swung the pendulum a little too far in the other way. Nina was too fragile, but likewise, her evil counterpart may have been a little over the top. I LOVED her last line about feeling perfection. Really well delivered.
I think the use of Nina’s perpetual rash was another interesting mechanism. I think it gave good reason for the “turkey skin” effect later on in the movie, but could’ve been expanded on a little more, much like the dynamic between the main character and her mother.
Another criticism I have is the copious use of masturbation in the movie. Not that I have anything against Natalie Portman playing DJ with her moon gravy, but I believe I counted 5 scenes of masturbation (if you include the lesbian scene between Nina and Lila). It seems as though the point and the idea were made about three taco tickles in…but maybe that’s just me. I did enjoy the comical scene of the morning attempt that ended in Nina realizing her mom was asleep in the chair next to her. It played well on the heart strings.
Overall, I think this movie was great, outside of a few things that could have been left on the cutting room floor. I am still looking forward to seeing Darren’s upcoming works of The Wolverine and Machine Man. Hey Darren, any chance you’d remake Sunshine? I loved that movie, but would love to see what you’d do with it.