Saturday, October 23, 2010

Philadelphia Film Festival: Black Swan

When sitting down to write about Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, this usually quite wordy (some would, and have, said too wordy) critic suddenly found himself at a loss for words.  Or at least at a loss for the appropriate words.  One could easily use such terms as beautiful or gorgeous or even succulent to describe this film, and all of these words would be perfectly accurate, but none of them seem to fit as they should.  While Black Swan may very well be one of the most gorgeous films this critic has seen in a long time, full of succulent, beautiful imagery, the film goes beyond such descriptives.  While simultaneously shining in such gorgeous imagery, Aronofsky has also made his film a monstrosity of sorts.  The auteur of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and The Wrestler, has finally done what all those films have been alluding too, leading up too - he has finally created his very own monster movie.
Black Swan is the story of a ballerina on the precipice of old age (at least by dance standards), who is cast to play the white and black swan (the light and dark, Ego and Id) in a new rendition of Swan Lake, and the inner demons that manifest themselves as a nightmarish reality.   Aronofsky has taken this ballet, and the making of this ballet, and has structured a monster movie like nothing else before it.  Sort of The Red Shoes on acid (an apt, but cursory description), Black Swan is a dangerous, threatening, wicked movie that takes the idea of perfection in art and transforms such a philosophical conundrum into a psychological horror movie reminiscent of Cronenberg or Haneke or even Argento. And it is Natalie Portman, at the center of this movie, who brings the light and dark together in the most ferocious of finales.  

The film also stars Mila Kunis as the supposed evil to Portman's supposed good (and her partner in the inevitable, and quite delectable, Sapphic delerium scene!), Vincent Cassel as the demanding ballet troupe leader (this film's Lermontov) and Barbara Hershey as Portman's psycho mother (can we say Piper Laurie in Carrie?), but it is Portman and her twisted ghoulish, yet striking mannerisms, that take the film deep into the void it dares to go into.  There is also a surprisingly intriguing turn by Winona Ryder, playing a ghostly version of herself.  But above all else, with its fractured cinematic psyche and bravura demonology, this is Darren Aronofsky's movie - and what a movie, what a work of Grand Guignol, it ends up being.
Denzel Washington once said (in his Oscar winning role in Training Day) that King Kong didn't have anything on him.  Well, that big ape's got nothing on Black Swan either.  Of course none of this is any help whatsoever in coming up with an appropriate term to describe such a film.  Magnificent, marvelous, enticing.  Astonishing, amazing, awe-inspiring.   Dazzling, delectable, provocative.  All of these describe what I felt while watching this rapturous (there's another word!) film, but still, they all seem like not quite enough for a film that is so batshitcrazy as Black Swan.  Hey wait, that's it - the perfect word.  Batshitcrazy.  As gorgeous a film as Black Swan is, more than anything else, it is batshitcrazy as can be.  Oh yeah, and it's one of the best films of the year - hands down.  Batshitcrazy indeed.
A full (and probably quite long-winded) review of Black Swan will appear here closer to the December 3rd release date of the film.

1 comment:

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