Comments on watching and making films.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky has had an extremely interesting, if somewhat limited, career. He started out with the ultra-low budget PI, which got the attention of the indie film world. He followed that up with the devastating Requiem For A Dream, which garnered him critical acclaim and made the world take notice. He took years to come back with his personal pet project, The Fountain, which, while an interesting idea, couldn't stand up to his previous efforts. He came back with The Wrestler, which proved to also be a come back for its star, Mickey Rourke, and now brings us his fifth feature in 12 years, Black Swan.

Black Swan stars Natalie Portman as perfectionist ballerina, Nina. When the senior dancer of the company, played by Winona Ryder, is forced into retirement, the leader of the company, Thomas Leroy (played by Vincent Cassel) chooses Nina to be the lead in his production of The Black Swan. As Leroy challenges Nina during the rehearsal process, he brings on Lily (played by Mila Kunis), as an alternate who shakes up Nina's life. As the rehearsal process for the ballet continues, Nina's world begins to fall apart and she has a more difficult time separating reality from fiction.

Black Swan is hard to nail down. I liked the last twenty to thirty minutes of it, but the first two thirds of the film felt like a hard mess. Pretty much all of the main characters are extremely one dimensional, to a point where you get bored with them, and the only thing that keeps all of it going is the fantasies that Nina keeps having. Aranofsky borrows a lot of technique that he established in The Wrestler, but he used it to better result in that movie. The handheld cinematography doesn't work as well for this film. The neutral color pallet, though, was something that I did like. Aranofsky sticks, basically, to three colors throughout the film - white, black, and grey. There are other colors that show up every once in a while, but those three are the primary ingredients.

Ultimately, Black Swan feels like a film that can't decide what it wants to be. Is it trying to be a horror film or an intense psychological thriller? I think it spends way too much time trying to be both. What is real and what isn't? Normally, that question would be what makes for an interesting time, but in this film, it just makes things confusing and difficult to watch.

I wish I could speak better of the film, considering that I think that Aranofsky is one of our greatest directors, but I feel like Black Swan is trying to do to many different things, and not doing a great job at any of them.

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