- Once (2006)
- All the President's Men (1976)
- Being John Malkovich (1999)
- In the Year of the Pig (1968)
- In The Mood For Love (2000)
- Hole, The (1960)
- Tokyo Story (1953)
- Ocean’s Eleven Blu-Ray Review
- Jurassic Park (1993)
- Gilda (1946)
- Rounders (1998)
- Masque of the Red Death, The (1964)
- Django Unchained (2012)
- Fat City (1972)
- Amélie (2001)
- All That Jazz (1979)
- Night of the Hunter, The (1955)
- King of Comedy, The (1983)
- Manhattan (1979)
- Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
- Sullivan's Travels (1941)
- Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The (1994)
- Hecklefest Four-Word Film Reviews! August '12 - Week 4
- Playtime (1967)
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
- Haunted Castle, The (1921)
- Last Wave, The (1977)
- Naked Lunch (1991) * Weird and Wacky *
- Phantom Carriage, The (1921)
- Lolita (1962)
Genre: Drama Thriller
Starring: Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta • Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones), Mila Kunis (“That '70s Show” • Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler • Requiem for a Dream)
Overview: Swan Lake is the story of how a pure white swan is corrupted by a dark black swan. When ballet dancer Nina is cast in her dream role of Swan Lake’s Queen, she finds herself becoming corrupted by her need to be the perfect dancer.
When someone asks me what my favourite film is, I quickly share this polished gem of a retort, “The best movie ever made is Requiem For A Dream,” qualifying ‘best’ because ‘favourite’ conjures up images of repeat viewings and happy feelings, something impossible to do with Requiem. Being a fan of Aronofsky doesn’t mean watching him over and over, it means seeing something with (hopefully) a deep resounding message. Requiem is his champion, The Wrestler shares it in spades and though Black Swan, being Thriller over Drama, is more on the escapist side of Aronofsky’s heavy spectrum, it’s a pleasant watch that did exceptionally well in box offices, not to mention being the latest cover of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. Though Black Swan unfortunately doesn’t have the punch-in-the-gut lessons present in the rest of Aronofsky’s works, it’s much more welcome to his filmography than the intended 2010 Wolverine sequel he was slated for. Comparing Aronofsky to himself, I was surprised to find in Black Swan a film that was so commercial, pleasant and safe – or rather, a film so easy for mainstream audiences.
Black Swan opens hard and fast. Nina, consistently terrifically played by Natalie Portman, is dancing ballet with a monstrous black swan – Swan Lake’s sorcerer Rothbart - that conjures up images of Mephistopheles. Nina wakes up, happy to have dreamed of playing the famous part of Swan Queen. This dream is also the dream of all other ballerinas in her company – to be given that prize principal role. Eventually she is cast, perfect as the White Swan, exemplifying the character’s grace and virginal qualities. The challenge is in becoming the seductive black swan, in letting go, in losing herself to the dark waters she represents under the sorcerer’s spell. Dance company director Thomas (the indomitable Vincent Cassel), works her hard to become that fluid persona. From practicing with her into the night, to ordering her to sexually satisfy herself, he tries to bring her impure side out. A new addition to the company, the dark and sensual Lily (Mila Kunis) is her opposite – a perfect black swan who befriends Nina and guides her down the murky road Nina needs to travel to become the perfect Swan Queen. Nina’s task is a difficult one and she begins obsessing over the dream role she’s been given. The Drama now turns to psycho-sexual Thriller.
"That was me seducing you. It's supposed to be the other way around." - Thomas
Black Swan is unrelenting in its beautiful black-and-white colour palette, spackled with hints of greys and pinks. Aronofsky doesn't pull out extreme special effects and Avant-Garde psychological horror craziness as you would find in such Thrillers as Jacob’s Ladder, choosing to stay more in the realm of Nina’s inner turmoil, with heavy dabs of Kafkaesque symbolism, fear and the social aspects of her life: the relationships with her mother, her dance director and her new “friend” Lily. All the typical ballet clichés are included, without being preachy or overdone: bulimia, visceral jealousy, overbearing mothers, young hopeful ballerinas full of rage, full of gossip, full of hope. Wynona Ryder impresses as the older, washed-up dancer being shoved aside in favour of the younger. Although Black Swan wasn’t as daring and strange as I had hoped, Nina’s story is an enjoyable one, and worthy of making the glorious list that I live for.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 84% (Graceful)
I came into Black Swan with the expectation of a gloriously Avant-Garde ending, deep and confounding as The Fountain, as symbolic as Pi, and hopefully half as beautiful as Requiem for a Dream. Black Swan is not art-house, it is not Avant-Garde. It is accessible, reasonable, logical, and only mildly symbolic. As such, it’s not surprising that it appeals to the mainstream. Although I had hoped for more madness, more confusion, more wild metamorphoses, Black Swan drove its point beautifully.