Friday, 28 January 2011

REVIEW: Black Swan

Bitch be trippin'

There will be those who will be happy to see that The Wrestler was a one-off for director Darren Aronofsky and those who won't be. While Black Swan is thematically very similar to that film, the thing that separated it glaringly from the rest of his work and perhaps what won it so much approval, was the guy curbing his operatic instincts, curbing his defining characteristic of searching for that moment of transcendence by kicking the crap out of the boundaries we know to be acceptable excess. Personally, I loved that Aronofsky over The Wrestler incarnation and while I liked that film. It felt muzzled, a film made by a man consciously toning himself down, and I think its safe to say there's none of that in Black Swan.

Having said that I think Black Swan might be more fundamentally flawed then any film he has ever made. Its script employs a series of functioning stereotypes, a supporting cast all there to serve a point rather then be human beings and an uneven script that repeatedly hits all of its ideas on the head with a mallet. And yet, almost through sheer force of will, Aronosfky and star Natalie Portman combine to create something extraordinary, something exhilarating and moving and very occasionally reach a level of beauty that few films could even aspire to. Black Swan is not only more then a sum of its parts, it outright transcends them. And while it is tempting to call it a huge mess, one only hopes there could be more messes like this. Portman, who has given hints at being able to do this every now and again, has truly hit a career best and then some. Its a very sculpted performance, top to bottom a testament to control, ironic in more ways then one, in which she both captures the fragility of Nina Sayers and the burgeoning insanity with pure authenticity, something that if she hadn't would have left some of the more balls-out stylings of Mr. Aronofsky in a no fly zone. One thinks of the phrase 'go big or go home' in regards to Aronofsky here and that's certainly what he does.

And this both hurt and helped the film sequentially, from the outright electric way he captures the ballet, making it feel more exhilarating then the best action sequence and more profound then anything words could say. He just provided the art with all the advertising it needs for the next decade. And yet the same approach is applied to the build, a tripping hallucinatory sequence goes a couple of steps too far, and to the characterization. Barbara Hershey's mother character is the worst victim of this, the movie happy to play to the long dated stereotype of the obsessively clingy mother with thoroughly no dimensional at all. This cheapened the movie for me, Mila Kunis comes and goes, not bad but not al that memorable either, and while Vincent Cassel's European director is yet another appalling stereotype, he manages to at least do something a little more interesting with it. But it's thoroughly Portman's show, and when she and Aronofsky combine at the top of their game for the near wordless and extraordinary last fifteen minutes, the film puts you in a place where previous objection no longer matter, such is the beauty of what you're seeing. The film is flawed to the core, but there's something wonderful here too. But personally, I think something with this much capacity for greatness is easier to forgive, and its rare a film can say fuck you to its limitations in such a glorious, almost magical way.

Rating: 8/10


Simon said...

The last twenty-something minutes are beautiful, even if the preceding is more on the campy side of glorious.


dtmmr said...

Director Darren Aronofsky does a spectacular job of drawing the audience deep into Nina's neuroses, making the viewer feel every uncomfortable twist of her mental instability. Good Review!