Black Swan - quick review

Patrick Sun

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This film features Natalie Portman as Nina Sears, an up-and-coming ballet dancer vying for the lead role of the Swan Queen in a contemporary take on "Swan Lake" in her dance company. Portman delivers an impressive performance, covering many facets and dimensions, be it dramatic, emotional, physical, etc. It could be an Oscar-winning Best Actress turn for Portman, she is that good in this film. Both Vincent Cassell (Thomas, who directs the ballet) and Mila Kunis (Lily, a free-spirited dancer waiting in the wings) are solid in their supporting roles, and Barbara Hershey is scarily good as Nina's mother, a former ballerina now living somewhat vicariously through her daughter's career with controlling intentions and overtones.


With "Black Swan", director Darren Aronofsky is in full control of his audience's attention, and his cinematic trademark is being able to organically orchestrate the ebb and flow, the ups and downs, of the dramatic tension of the story unfolding that he is able to elicit from his audience through all the tools at his disposal, be it the acting performances, the music, the editing, the choice of camera angles, subtle special effects, the tempo and pacing of the narrative. He's at the top of his directorial game, and "Black Swan" is not to be missed if you are into the psychological thrillers.


I give it 3.75 stars or a grade of A-.
 

Patrick Sun

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FYI: while it's in really limited release, it will open in 1,000 theaters on December, 22, 2010. Go see it if you get a chance.
 

Chuck Mayer

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It is. A companion film of sorts to The Wrestler, it goes from sublime to absurd, taking up residence in the main character's head from the opening sequence to the final bow.


Unsettling and occassionally brutal.
 

Kazz

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The movie sounds good. Will try to see it when it opens.
 

Patrick Sun

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I saw this again, and the 3rd act is still amazingly crafted. Natalie Portman acts her face off in this film.
 

Robert Crawford

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A great acting performance by Portman, but overall I thought the film is overrated. It's not a grade "A" film for me, more like a solid "B".







Crawdaddy
 

Cory S.

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Tied with Inception as my favorite film of the year. Can't really choose between the two but what I can say is that Portman is sublime. Just utterly in control of her craft with this performance. It's a transcendent performance. That's really the only way I can described what I witness yesterday afternoon. It's her masterwork. 30 years from now, they'll still be talking about her performance in this film when her name pops up.


As for Aronofsky, he delivers yet again. It's not quite Requiem level but it's the closest he's gotten. I have it over so slightly ahead of the Fountain...TODAY. That might change with a second viewing.

Either way, give Portman ever acting award this season. There's no one within miles of her this year. I don't want to here about Annette Benning getting a make-up Oscar for all those times she lost to Swank. She's great in the Kids Are All Right. But, she's not in the same galaxy as Portman this year.
 

mattCR

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Portman is sensational in this, but it just didn't work for me. It's not a bad film, I think it gets a lot of hype because of how good her performance is - and it is very, very good. But I found a lot of the surrounding cast to be rather pedestrian and the plot, while interesting also seems very rough around the edges.


A decent, strong effort. Probably in my top 10, but more toward the bottom of that list. A solid B.
 

Mario Gauci

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[SIZE= 12px]12/20/10: BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky, 2010) [/SIZE]


[SIZE= 12px]I had first read about this at the time of its Venice Film Festival presentation, where the picture was (unsurprisingly but rather misleadingly) compared by many to Dario Argento’s supernatural shocker SUSPIRIA (1977). Consequently, I went into BLACK SWAN (nothing to do, of course, with the classic Tyrone Power swashbuckler from 1942) expecting more horror elements than were actually on offer, but I was still very much impressed with the end result. Back then, the movie was not really talked of as the Oscar contender it is clearly shaping up to be; still, two-thirds of the way in I was perhaps ready to consider it overrated myself…that is, until the last act kicked in and took the film to a whole new level! Needless to say, given the ballet milieu, parallels to The Archers’ THE RED SHOES (1948) could not be avoided (it even contrives a similarly tragic denouement!). However, many another individualistic film-makers’ styles have also been applied to Aronofsky’s effort: from Roman Polanski (with shades of REPULSION [1965] being especially felt throughout) to David Cronenberg (due to its adopting his trademark ‘body-horror’ device) and Lynch (the whole plays out like one of the director’s surreal trips into the human psyche, and MULHOLLAND DRIVE [2001] in particular).[/SIZE]


[SIZE= 12px]Being one of the major contributing factors to the film’s success, a word is obviously in order now about the cast. Naturally, we begin with Natalie Portman: hers has aptly been described a courageous performance – in the Isabelle Adjani POSSESSION (1981) mould – not least because of scenes involving masturbation and lesbianism; having just recently watched Chloe Grace Moretz in LET ME IN (2010), I could not help recalling Portman’s own prodigious start as a teen in Luc Besson’s LEON (1994). I do not think I have ever watched Mila Kunis in anything prior to BLACK SWAN, but the favorable notices she has been getting for this role are well-deserved – managing to leave a mark even when the show clearly belongs to Portman. While Vincent Cassel is better than usual here, he is hardly in the same class as Anton Walbrook from THE RED SHOES…and since his character promises us a visceral re-imagining of the Tchaikovsky opus, I was ultimately disappointed that the unfolding horror proved to be of the ‘all-in-the-mind’ variety! Barbara Hershey’s possessive mother, then, lends the film a distinct CARRIE (1976) vibe. As for Winona Ryder, I guess one needs to commend her for being such a sport in accepting the role of a has-been; incidentally, the scene where Portman returns to the now-crippled Ryder the ‘mementos’ she had pilfered when star-struck of her emerges as its most poignant moment.[/SIZE]

[SIZE= 12px] [/SIZE]

[SIZE= 12px]Performers driven to the edge for the sake of art (and fame) has long been a cinematic staple, but it has rarely been done so vividly and with such tremendous punch; truth be told, I have always wondered in films like these just how talented actors could be made to play down their gift in scenes where they are not supposed to meet their on-screen taskmaster’s standards, or whether the artist behind the camera at times needed to exert himself as much as the one in front of it in order to coax what he was striving for out of his cast! Reflection, too, plays a pivotal part in the narrative: mirrors are omnipresent, while several characters deliberately look alike (so that Portman often sees herself in others!) – preparing one for the bravura sequence where the heroine undergoes a ‘literal’ metamorphosis from her guise of White Swan (i.e. gauche, virginal) into the Black one (embodying malevolence and seductiveness). No less important, however, is the disquieting score – which, apparently, consists of a variation on “Swan Lake” itself played in reverse![/SIZE]

[SIZE= 12px] [/SIZE]

[SIZE= 12px]Having watched all of Aronofsky’s feature films, I would probably rank this as his finest yet – with THE WRESTLER (2008), his acclaimed previous release, placing close behind it. On the other hand, I am not over-the-moon as many others are about the rest of the director’s work – finding PI (1998) too muddled, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000) too depressing, and THE FOUNTAIN (2006) too ambitious for their own good![/SIZE]
 

JonZ

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Was pretty great, especially the scene were she....





turned into the swan.



I wanted to rewind and watch that again.
 

Claire Panke

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Originally Posted by BrettGallman

Here's my review of it--any feedback is appreciated. I really enjoyed this movie and enjoyed writing about it--so much to discuss.


Good catch on the twisted mother/daughter relationship being the key struggle.


BTW, Vincent's Cassel's role in the ballet world wouldn't be described as "producer": artistic director would be the usual title - he is also possibly the chief choreographer for the company, but artistic director would be his actual position.
 

Ronald Epstein

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What...the...hell...did...I...just....watch.


Natalie Portman was sensational. Absolutely

sensational!


However I'll be damned if through most of it,

I knew what this film was about or where it was

going.
 

Scott Calvert

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Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein However I'll be damned if through most of it,

I knew what this film was about or where it was

going.


That's because, IMO, Darren Aronofski films are all pretense and showoffy directorial affectations. Many believe he is a great artiste, but I'm not convinced.
 

Michael Elliott

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I just got done watching the movie about three hours ago and every frame of it is still in my mind. A real masterpiece IMO. I rarely go back and rewatch movies but I'm certainly going to try and watch this one again. A beautiful and haunting nightmare of a film.

THE WRESTLER was robbed left and right so hopefully the same fate won't hit this film.
 

Ronald Epstein

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That's because, IMO, Darren Aronofski films are all pretense and showoffy directorial affectations. Many believe he is a great artiste, but I'm not convinced.

Natalie Portman deserves a Best Actress nod for this role.


That aspect of the film nobody can argue.


But the execution of events? What the hell was the Director thinking?

I didn't know what the hell was going on through most of the film --

whether the events being portrayed were real or not. In fact, I was

questioning if I was seeing a serious film or a cheap horror movie.
 

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