David—Your main criticism of the film is “It’s not the kind of movie I wanted it to be.” It’s more than a horror film and it’s artfully executed. You’re too harsh on it.
@HAL I was just offering my opinion. Nothing more. I didn’t mean to make you upset.
You can say whatever the hell you want to me. I was just joking around about the potential detriment to your reputation.
1. Those who keep saying that this film is about dancing is wrong…Aronofsky makes films about addiction, this one focused on the addiction of perfection.
2. The Red Shoes is fantastic…but its in a completely separate category from this film (AND NOT SEPARATE AS IN I THINK ONE IS GOOD AND THE OTHER IS SUBLIME, DIFFERENT AS IN ONE IS A ROMANCE AND ONE IS A MIND-BENDING HORROR FUCK)
3. Those who think the film was terrible…that’s fine…I respect your opinion, you and I hope you enjoyed Dance Flick and Little Fockers in 3d. Have fun going to see the new Justin Bieber movie RETARDS
4. The way he filmed it is a style particular to him. We are suppose to live and breathe with Natalie as he made us live and breathe with Mickey in the wrestler. And if you thought it took away from the dancing, then you probably missed the last scene where she dances all around the fucking stage, and he follows her as if filming a documentary…:)
5. The Film was great. His films just keep getting better.
My only issue with Black Swan is that it took this film for Barbara Hershey to channel Adrienne Barbeau. The Last Temptation of Christ was rife with Barbeauesque possibilities, alas.
Nope, folks, it really is just a silly little horror movie hiding its lack of content in a mad flash of stylistic gimmickry. NIGHTMARE AT LINCOLN CENTER, basically. Can’t wait for the holiday sequel: BLACK SWAN II: NUTCRACKER’S BACK!!!!!
“it really is just a silly little horror movie hiding its lack of content in a mad flash of stylistic gimmickry.”
Frankly folks, it is….I stopped reading the Lacan analysis somewhere in its second paragraph. The film is not fucking Argento for crying out loud, it’s just an entertaining pseudo-horror “mind-game”. If you look it beyond its popcorn values, the fun is over. It’s no different than watching Chicago for the musical genre or Where the Wild Things Are for the children’s film “genre”: all of those are pretty fancies but NOTHING MORE.
Dimitris: Whoa, “Where the Wild Things Are” is the hipster genre, if any ;)
About Black Swan: but don’t you agree that the film is extremely high concept – of course it has too be simplistic and somewhat “shallow” if you will… It does not claim substantial depth.
I had high hopes for “Black Swan”—excited about it like few other recent releases. Well, go to my webpage and check out my brief comment update about this film.
Yes, I left the cinema in Sydney’s western suburbs MAJORLY disappointed—not a good way to spend my last cinema trip of the year. Fortunately, I enjoyed “The Tourist” the following day (New Year’s Day) followed by “Somewhere” the next day after that, to wash the bad cinematic aftertaste of “Black Swan” (initials: “B.S.”) from my pretty little mouth.
(Wait a minute: my mouth is little?)
If I may quote David E…
“It’s a truly terrible film. Aronosky has clearly impressed a lot of people who’ve heard about “The Red Shoes”but never actually seen it. He has no interest in ballet nor any understanding of how to film it. Natalie Portman may well know how to dance, but I have no idea whether she does or not on the basis of this travesty. Aronofsky places his camera right up in her face and on top of her body. He never shows any actual dance movement last more than a few seconds. We never see a full ballet.”
Regardless of whatever conflicting opinions I’ve had with David in the past on these boards, he’s scored a bull’s eye with the above commentary. There’s not a single grain of untruthfulness in it. I must reiterate this line from David, concerning Aronofsky:
“He has no interest in ballet nor any understanding of how to film it.”
Damn right he doesn’t: I am no expert on ballet, but I have attended some live ballet recently, and I’ve seen “The Red Shoes” four times at the cinema since first catching the restoration of it last year on my birthday. It’s easily one of my favourite films, it just gets better with each outing. You don’t need to be a ballet wizard to see the difference between “The Red Shoes” and “Black Swan”. It’s like the difference between “Fright Night” and “Twilight”.
If I may add to David’s sentiments about “B.S.”, the backstage bitchery, which earns this film the alternative title “Showgirls: The Ballet”, really is amateur hour stuff. Okay, so Natalie Portman delivers the film’s sole strong performance—acting wise, but not dancing wise—she’s no prima ballerina. As a serious dramatic actress, Mila Kunis makes a pretty good clothes horse.
A lot of the crud in this movie should have hit the cutting room floor, in particular, the more irritating examples of Aronofsky’s self-indulgent voyeurism. Did we really need to see that old coot on the train grabbing his Santa sack, making obscene clicky-kissing noises at Natalie Portman? The sapphic interlude between Natalie and Mila was strangely unerotic, when eroticism was clearly its intention. Also, check out the director’s overindulgence in his obvious anthromorph-fetish, with Natalie seemingly LITERALLY turning into the eponymous bird—who knew Aronofsky was a furry…or is that a feathery? In defence of Aronofsky, there can be an erotcism to anthromorphism—this is why Catwoman appeals to so many men—but he really went over-the-top here and the hokey CGI work (those wings—are you kidding me?) didn’t do the film any favours.
Therein lies another problem with the film: Natalie’s character couldn’t simply show a “dark side” to represent her burgeoning sinister nature—she had to ACTUALLY BECOME A GIGANTIC BLACK SWAN! What is it with some directors who have to treat us like such idiots, they become so literal?
Also, are we meant to feel pity for the lead character, Nina (Portman)? Initially, I felt something for her, but then she goes and ruins things for herself by boozing late night at a tacky nightclub-tavern just hours before her big performance. Who cares if her drink was spiked or not? She shouldn’t have been out drinking in the first place. If this was meant to be Nina’s emerging dark side, it didn’t work—it simply made Nina look like a moron.
The ballet director, played by Vince Cassel…nothing against his performance, but boy oh boy, was he ever handed garbage to recite. He makes Franco, the sleazy dance instructor who cracks on to Kelly in “Breakdance” look like an extremely complex, totally fascinating character by comparison. Seriously, the lascivious employer giving the student the benefit of the casting couch situation—one more cliche this film didn’t need.
The whole thing was such a mess, and I so desperately wanted to love this film, but there was little to admire. I must say, it stuns me how beloved this film has become. If this film sweeps the Oscars, it shall only serve as further proof of said ceremony’s growing irrelevance in the film world. Alas, I feel it shall do well at the Academy Awards, thus inflating its already exaggerated value even more with filmgoers.
A few things occurred to me when I saw the film:
1. This guy is never going to be accused as a master of the subtle, but then again I guess Tchaikovsky wouldn’t be, so at least he’s choosing a ballet that melds to his sensibilities.
2. This is not a ballet film, just like the Wrestler isn’t a wrestling film, though that film provided a little more information about the “technique”.
3. The hand held camera work is really good and the editing hides the mirrors really well.
4. There are plenty of films that depict a descent into madness better, like Repulsion, The Tenant and to some degree Persona. I don’t think that Aronofsky is trying to go to the same depth as these works.
Overall, it’s not the best film I’ve ever seen, nor is it the worst. It was okay, a little silly at times, but okay.
One more problem with the film: Aronofksy swerves the audience so many times (“did that really happen or is she just crazy?”) that after a while, the “shocking scenes” lose all impact. Aronofksy teaches us all these bad things aren’t really happening, they’re just delusions in Nina’s mind, and they happen so often that pretty soon we stop giving a damn. If the horrors were less blatant and done with a deft touch and melded better with reality, maybe these shocking moments would’ve have delivered a more lingering impact. However, regardless of the above, it’s still a lousy film. There is so much awfulness elsewhere in this movie it’s uncanny.
“It does not claim substantial depth.”
Thank you. That really needed to be said. I’m not sure why everyone is under the impression that it’s supposed to be the most complex and unique thing in the world.
I usually like Natalie Portman, and I’m of the belief that, particularly with her, she’s only as her director. However, in this film, her constant furrowed brow and lack of character depth as the “white swan/good nina” while off the stage was flat and almost annoying. That being said, when she was performing on stage and in transition to the black swan, or as the black swan, she was great.
Lona, i think the reason why people are under that impression is that its because that’s what they’re being told by critics and friends who see a lot of formula mainstream hollywood movies. if all you watch is whatever michael bay puts out and think Inception is hard to follow but still liked it anyway, then you’re going to think this is more of an “art house” or “independent film” than it really is. its not independent anyway, it was studio subsidiary funded.
“1) No serious ballet company would allow a dancer to have a tattoo of any size, let alone one covering most of their back (and be shown in a performance even). Was there a purpose for this beyond allowing the hallucination of it turning to wings or was that really just a stupid decision on Aronofsky’s part?
2) Wow. The portrayal of female pleasure was absolutely horrendous. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care that there was/were sex/sexual acts in it like some do, but the completely unrealistic manner in which they were put there… problem."
I seriously question whether Mila Kunis’ character was actually going to dance, I feel like she was a ploy by Thomas to try and inspire jealously into Nina so that she could perform at her best. She wasn’t even from the company but flown out from San Francisco, seems a bit odd to me.
“That’s a nice college try, but I don’t think anything in this film is in any way tied to ‘the real’, let alone love, given that it’s a high camp fantasy without a hint of romance, but that’s just me. I’m sure we could tie a desire to attain the ‘ridiculous fantasy’ that is inextricably related to ‘sex and egotism’ to some reading of another psychiatrist – how about Freud? I think Freud’s fiction matches Aronofsky’s fiction far better than Lacan’s fiction.
This is not to say that either is anywhere near as fundamentally central to the film as ‘the biggest cliché in literature’, the artist dying for his/her work."
I’m not sure you understand Lacan. Lacan IS Freud, they never contradict, he simply schematizes Freud’s ideas. While the dying artist might be a bit cliche, the film really is more about our attempts to attain our ideal and that this conception of our ideal is inextricably tied to the formation of our ego, we cannot exist without it and we cannot exist with it.
I loved Black Swan. I thought it was big and loud and fun to watch. Aronofsky goes all in. I can’t tell if those who dislike it so passionately actually expected a staid portrait of a ballerina? Or something else? Black Swan is a well-shot, cut and acted exploration of twin forces of technical craft and raw force in creating works of art. plus there’s cunnilingus. What’s the problem people?
Here is an interview where Aronofsky discusses the origins of the project and the difficulty of raising the money to make it, despite Natalie Portman being on board.
The problem, people, is that BLACK SWAN is a trite bag of Reality/Fantasy Sanity/Madness horror cliches. The penny drops really quick that little Nina is barking batshit crazy, and the movie has nowhere to go but straight up its own ass, where for all I care it can just bloody well stay.
so? can’t you say the same about repulsion?
i am loathe to quote a.o. scott but i will anyway
Is “Black Swan” a realistic portrayal of life in a ballet company? Probably not. Is it an overheated, wildly melodramatic rendering of an artist’s struggle? Without a doubt. And to scold the director, Darren Aronofsky, for what he doesn’t get about dancers or how he looks at women is almost deliberately to miss the point. This is, at bottom, a horror movie
from ny times 1.2.11
Watched it last night, first time. It’s pretty much torture porn. It’s not unimpressive, and its the biggest (I didn’t say best) performance we’ve had out of Natalie. I much prefer Nina’s confusion over what events are actually occurring, as opposed to those effects-driven hallucinations… those I can just do without.
Basically, Nina sucks… the audience is meant to desire her downfall, because we know she is false… so it’s like driving past a gory auto wreck, and one for a person that you knew, and knew was really fucked up. It does remind one of giallo – maybe a giallo tribute film. We just get a quick peek into Nina’s joyless, schizo existence – an oppressive journey. What makes the film so disturbing is that the POV is one which sympathizes with Nina… so, you know, technical bravura, big story, all wow-ing… but why would I want to sympathize with that girl? She’s joyless, friendless, repressed.
I’d like to opine that for all the bitching people do about Von Trier, how he abuses actresses, etc… he would not have made this film. Black Swan was simply degradation and madness, which I suppose you could call a horror film – I think it’s something different.
Brian, yep, I can say the same about REPULSION, too, another wildly overrated, singularly uninteresting little movie that folks persist in finding deeper meanings in. Some cool bits, and all, but I never gave a fuck about Deneuve’s Pretty Little Psycho or her dementia. REPULSION, I guess, might have the distinction of being the first, I suppose, to locate the Beast In The Beauty, but I’ve always felt that was faint praise indeed.
And loathe as yhou are to quote A.O. Scott, I’d agree with him up to a point. BS isn’t a realistic portrayal, it is an over-heated wildly melodramatic portrayal and all that. Points very much taken, and frankly un-necessarily so. The point that seems to be missed so often is that it is also an overwhelmingly STUPID over-heated wildly melodramatic portrayal and all that.— one silly reality/madness gimmick after another for two solid hours.
The film is a waste of digital space. Those ones and zeroes could have been put to so much better use.
I’m with Brian on this. It’s a horror film, and an effective one at that. Sure, you can pick it apart for not being a meaningful character study or serious dance film, but that’s not what it’s going for. It’s a cross between the over-the-top spectacle of Ken Russell and the body horror of David Cronenberg.
Right, Brad, it goes for all of that, the Russellian spectacle, and the Cronenberg body horror, yup, I’m sure that was Aronofsky’s idea, and, sorry, that doesn’t make the film even a little bit more interesting. We can count off the film’s infinite number of influences until doomsday, it still doesn’t make the film more interesting.
For me, that is. Folks evidently disagree. It just seemed very tired, very transparent, and very trite to me. Much much much less than met the eye.
I seriously doubt that Lacan woudl have liked “The Black Swan.” The only film I’m aware of that he reviewed was Benoit Jacquot’s L’Assasin Musicien." He may have commented on Oshima’s “L’Empire des Sens,” but only in passing.
His wife Sylvia Bataille (sister of Georges) starred in two really great Renoir films : “A Day in the Country” and “Le Crime de M. Lange.”
Neither has anything in common with Aronovsky.
@Sandwiches I’m not sure you understand Lacan. Lacan IS Freud, they never contradict, he simply schematizes Freud’s ideas. While the dying artist might be a bit cliche, the film really is more about our attempts to attain our ideal and that this conception of our ideal is inextricably tied to the formation of our ego, we cannot exist without it and we cannot exist with it.
That’s your interpretation, yes. I disagree entirely. I think that’s merely a motif. That the film is so borderline camp and so shamelessly referential to other films to me makes any ‘commentary on human nature’ a rather threadbare conception. It’s like saying that Natalie Portman became a professional ballerina by putting on a professional ballerina’s shoes. Far from it. It is an element, but I can’t say it’s of any importance. That surely is a matter of opinion, but that’s a part of analysis. Here’s where the opinion stems from: In my opinion, that segment of the film is worth about as much as a Friedberg Selzer film (note that almost everything that comprises that aspect of the film is either directly pulled from an existing film or is an obvious cliché – that is the basis of and full extent of a Friedberg Selzer film). Thankfully, I don’t think that is what is interesting about the film. You think Lacan IS Freud, I think Lacan IS NOT Freud but IS of the same cloth: pure nonsense, which is to say that I think they both function in relation to this film in the same way: not at all, aside from coincidental relationship to the overriding clichés of popular art, which may reflect their popular psychological fiction, sure.
@Miasma I’d like to opine that for all the bitching people do about Von Trier, how he abuses actresses, etc… he would not have made this film. Black Swan was simply degradation and madness, which I suppose you could call a horror film – I think it’s something different.
Me too! Repulsion and Videodrome, which he blatantly steals from, are about degradation and madness. This is a blatantly post-modern reflection on those films.
Have to disagree with you here, though:
but why would I want to sympathize with that girl? She’s joyless, friendless, repressed.
That is why I would sympathize with her. Or do you only sympathize with perfect people with no problems, a true fair weather friend/human/sympathizer?
Of course, I don’t think sympathy ever has anything to do with fictional characters so it’s a non-issue for me.
@Roscoe: it is an over-heated wildly melodramatic portrayal and all that. Points very much taken, and frankly un-necessarily so.
You could say that about Fassbinder, but you would miss out on all the Fassbinder.
One thing about using visceral modes such as melodrama: if you suck out all the visceral, you miss the point.
The point that seems to be missed so often is that it is also an overwhelmingly STUPID over-heated wildly melodramatic portrayal and all that.— one silly reality/madness gimmick after another for two solid hours.
Exactly. Welcome to post-modernist reflection.
We can count off the film’s infinite number of influences until doomsday, it still doesn’t make the film more interesting.
If that’s the case then it’s no surprise that you don’t find the film interesting: because that is so central to the film and, yes, post-modernism. Again, if you don’t like post-modern films, then you will not like this film. If you fault it for being post-modern, what’s the point?
i think if you can identify with the emotions portman’s character goes through—leaving aside the ballet and horror movie tropes—the experience can be quite cathartic. i am not a dancer, but i definitely recognized the violent existential confusion on display, and i appreciated aronofsky’s willingness to put these feelings out there. body horror is not an invention of cronenberg… it’s real, man! obviously not everybody has been able to connect to this film, but it almost moved me to tears… despite the were-swan theatrics.
@Leaves — once again, once and for all.
I fault BLACK SWAN not because it is allegedly post-modern, not because it is a mass of influences, not because it is wildly over-dramatic, and all that stuff. I like lots of “post-modern” mass of influences wildly over-dramatic stuff. Stuff like FAR FROM HEAVEN, etc. No problem with the kind of film, the genre, the style, etc.
Nope. I fault BLACK SWAN because it sucks. Because it is silly, boring, and just generally a waste of time, money, energy, and discussion.
Hope that’s clear enough.
Enjoy BLACK SWAN y’all.
Note: Not interesting.
@SLEEVES: it’s real, man! obviously not everybody has been able to connect to this film, but it almost moved me to tears… despite the were-swan theatrics.
It’s strange how it almost moved you to tears and it has moved others who love it to laughter over thinking it’s camp. I’m more in the latter camp, myself.
Not strange at all. It is called a difference of opinion. One person’s masterpiece of tear-inducing brilliance is another’s tedious parade of gimmicks.
You’re welcome, Leaves!
Care to dictate my experiences again while simultaneously saying that people’s experiences differ, or was it just a one time thing?
Any time. Glad to be of assistance.