Tchai-Kafka-sky’s Swan Lake

Black Swan is “The Metamorphosis” with sexytime

Director Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is just your run-of-the-mill “girl haunted by doppelgangers while turning into a human/swan hybrid” ballet movie with elements of bisexual experimentation. In other words, writers Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin are a collective Dr. Frankenstein, standing over a creation that is part horror, part pure beauty. Firmly entrenched in Aronofsky’s increasingly well-defined, simultaneously gritty and crisp visual style, Black Swan is as frightening as it is splendorous. It makes watching ballet feel like being a voyeur to a game of Russian roulette. In a word: Wow!

Natalie Portman, whose collision course with Oscar could only be derailed by an inverse deus ex machina by the Academy, plays Nina. Nina is beautiful, hardworking and kinda lame. Tortured by her former-ballerina mother (Barbara Hershey) to seek perfection to the point of OCD, Nina is finally chosen by Thomas (Vincent Cassel) to replace Beth (Winona Ryder) as the lead in the dance company’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

Although confident her boring-as-hell, subdued personality is perfect for the demure White Swan, Thomas remains unsure that Nina can also play the wild, reckless Black Swan, which her role as Swan Queen demands. Enter Lily (Mila Kunis). Lily is a free spirit, a fact you can tell by her pronounced eyeliner and willingness to smoke in “no smoking” areas. As Thomas keeps pushing Nina, in some cases with inappropriate body parts, Nina realizes that if she doesn’t become more like Lily, she’ll lose the role to her.

We’ve now reached the end of the literal events that can be described. From there it’s masturbatory fantasies, Kafka-esque transformations as metaphors for self-mutilation and lots and lots of dancing. And it is all so very awesome.

Everybody get on board, the praise train is pulling out of the station: First up is Portman, who acts the ever-lovin’ crap out of her role. Her genuine affectations prevent the film from ever feeling exploitative; instead, her nuanced, tour-de-force delivery unspools as a metaphor for females squeezed by the vice of cultural pressure. Combine that with Clint Mansell’s classical/modern horror score and Aronofsky’s gobstopper direction, and it’s hard not to call Black Swan the year’s best.

Interestingly, it’s not just the ballet company within the movie that’s presenting a new version of Swan Lake, as the credits suggest the entire film itself can be read as an interpretation. With endless layers of brilliance and the year’s best female performance, Black Swan is one damn-fine feathered bird.

Grade = A

posted at 04:32 am
on Saturday, January 29th, 2011

COMMENTS

(We're testing Disqus commenting (finally!); please let us know if you have trouble.)

comments powered by Disqus

 

« Previous Page


Myopic Biopic

Biopics are lies. Oh, don’t get me wrong, all storytelling is fundamentally fibbing. But it seems somehow more disingenuous to airbrush actual human histories, to select which warts to ignore and...

more »


Cold War Sizzle

Presumably, a reboot or remake is done to capitalize on the good will and brand recognition of an intellectual property. Do fanboys of the 1960s TV show “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” exist? Does anyone...

more »


Flash Without Flair

I fell for Ricki and the Flash’s embarrassingly enthusiastic advertising run—the poster of Meryl Streep in full rock star garb and numerous TV spots in which she praises her latest project. I fell,...

more »


Finite Jest

Director James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour is a movie about two writers talking to each other for five days and not much else. They talk about everything we’ve come to expect that writers in...

more »


Missed It By That Much

Gather ‘round the campfire, children, your Uncle Ryan has a story of terror to tell.

Way back in “aught 6,” Omaha didn’t have a way to watch some of the best movies in the world. It’s true! Why,...

more »







Advanced Search