Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Duck- here come the swans

“Black Swan” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Swan_(film))  is a powerful film that showcases Natalie Portman’s skill as an actor in her role as Nina.  Much has been said about the movie and I have only a few observations.  The storyline reminded me, as it has others, of Polanski’s “Repulsion” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repulsion_(film))  Both are about beautiful and women who begin to have hallucinations and delusions.  The hallucinations that Deneuve had in Polanski’s film were really creepy and very well done.  I remember seeing hands coming out of walls grabbing at Deneuve’s character.   Director Darren Aronofsky created equally frightening effects, especially when Nina’s skin begins to look like the skin of a swan without its feathers.  Similarly, when she becomes the Black Swan, she sprouts some pretty amazing swan wings.  This, of course, signaled her emotional transformation to the swan character, which had previously eluded her.  Barbara Hershey was effective as Portman’s mother.  She had just enough menace in her relationship to Nina to make one uneasy, but not so much that the viewer blames her for her daughter’s flame out.  Vincent Cassel is also notable as the sometimes smarmy but always narcissistic choreographer.  Aronofsky is quite skilled at not revealing to us whether the smarminess is real or part of Nina’s deteriorating mental health- or both. 

Aronofsky is a great director.  He has done the quirky “Pi”, the gritty “The Wrestler”, and the beautiful “The Fountain.”  He also has used Clint Mansell to write soundtrack music for his films.  I particularly liked Mansell’s lyrical pieces for “the Fountain,” but I found the music weaker for this film, yet the music of Tchaikovsky that is used is so majestic and powerful.
Much of the choreography is the movie is done by Benjamin Millepied, who also serves as the Swan’s cavalier.  Millipied  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Millepied) is also the father of Portman’s child. 

Finally, I read a review of the movie by members of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.  They were generally positive about the film, as it does fairly represent the angst of auditions and the power of choreographers.  However, one of the dancers made a comment that as well as Portman dances in the film, her arms are not long enough to be a really great ballet dancer.  After having that drawn to my attention, I think I agree. 
This is a great film- short arms to the contrary.  

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