Sunday, 30 January 2011

Black Swan

Amidst the awards hoopla it’s a bit tricky to give an objective view of this kind of film but here goes: Black Swan (BAFTA & Oscar nominated) sees Darren Aronofsky (BAFTA & Oscar nominated) directing Natalie Portman (BAFTA & Oscar nominated) through the lens of cinematographer, Matthew Libatique (BAFTA & Oscar nominated). OK, you get the idea. And, I should add, others involved are also up for gongs. But enough of that…

The film sees Natalie Portman as prima ballerina Nina, preparing for Swan Lake. As she struggles with the darker part of the dual role, the Black Swan things take a turn for the weird. It's a psychological horror where you’re often unsure what is real and what is not. This is Polanski territory but the closest cinematic cousin is 1990’s Jacob’s Ladder. Sadly, however, it’s a poor relation. The “shocks” just aren’t that shocking. There are also unintentional laughs galore which have a nasty habit of descending your disbelief. Saying that, it's a film with a lot of good qualities. As a warts 'n all look at ballet it's unmatched. The dance scenes (both in rehearsal and on stage) are film-making at its most muscular.

Peculiarly, there are an awful lot of similarities with Aronofsky’s last film, The Wrestler; Natalie Portman is often shot walking from behind just as Mickey Rourke was, there are many parallels in terms of the theme of performance, and it is shot in the most stunning, gritty, grainy Super 16mm (and brutally up close and personal) resulting in a really mesmerising look. 

Natalie Portman is fantastic in the role, as are Barbara Hershey (bordering-on-psychotic-Mommy) and Mila Kunis (free and easy ballerina Lily, foil to the uptight Nina). Sadly, France’s Bobby De Niro, Vincent Cassel (ballet director, Thomas) is given some truly dreadful lines which (dramatically) render his character impotent and makes for toe-curling viewing.

Way back in the late eighties I was talking about a recent VHS rental with my dad: the Alan Parker-directed, supernatural noir, Angel Heart . Brian Goodchild, major film buff (and the person most responsible for nurturing my love of cinema) described it perfectly as “well made trash”. Essentially, Black Swan is just that. It’s an incredibly well made load of old rubbish.


  1. Hello, I have just read this with a Mr Simon Mohr and he is delighted, because now I don't want to go and see this, and he didn't want to in the first place! I think your very witty indeed and would like to congratulate you, on the sharpness of your writing, and that red shirt, beige jacket combo. Very nice! Yours sincerely, D

  2. High art trash certainly and completely ridiculous... but I LOVED it!