Black Swan (2010) was definitely inspired by three things (off the top of my head):
However, instead of being campy and everything I wanted in a film, Aronofsky created a film that was so self-involved and ruined by unneeded special effects and tropes that it destroyed the appeal the film was aiming at. It was a film that I would consider too inspired, ridding itself from any form of creativity and genuine allure. Immediately, I think of The Red Shoes and Perfect Blue – some scenes were directly borrowed, as well as plot devices (in the case of Perfect Blue). Basically, Aronofsky thought he could achieve the campiness and cult appeal of the exploitation film by creating an elaborate production dealing with ballerinas – and you guessed it! – paranoia and a woman’s self-destructive perfectionism. But he failed. I think what makes the genres I mentioned above so fascinating is that they hold a certain naturalness, despite the “questionable” quality. They’re organic and they demand your visceral sensation to the images on screen: the stories have a certain, preternatural appeal. With Black Swan, it felt like I was walking through a cheap amusement park full of fabricated fears and scares. I saw everything before; and quite frankly, I wanted my money back.
I agree about Red Shoes, but Perfect Blue? The similarities there are pretty general. I would have gone to Repulsion long before Perfect Blue.
I liked Black Swan but it was overhyped.
I gave the film three stars for entertainment value. But for the most part…
it felt like I was walking through a cheap amusement park full of fabricated fears and scares. I saw everything before…
I agree with this ^
I forgot about Repulsion; silly me. Thanks for the heads up.
aronofsky bought the rights to perfect blue in order to replicate the bathtub sequence among other things
but there’s prolly already a thread on this somewhere. fwiw i thought the film was hilarious. it’s a total mashup of polanski, de palma, even argento. and over all, the red shoes
yeah, it is a complete mashup – that’s why I found it insufferable! haha. It was so forced, there was absolutely no creativity involved.
and natalie portman’s acting didn’t make it any better either.
yeah i didn’t understand the raves for her performance. it was her usual uptight wasp girl
i think it may be a future camp classic a la showgirls
I agree, Susie. Darren Aronofsky came across as a cheap carny, a sideshow huckster, straw hat atop his head, cane in hand, ill-fitting stripey jacket, requesting us to “step right up” to witness his grotesque parade of pitiful freaks. A film like “Black Swan” could have tackled so many issues real to ballerinas (weight loss, eating disorders, painkiller addiction—not saying these are overly common but I’m certain they are there), but instead opted for a weird-o-rama gorefest more at home in an “Elm Street” film than what you’d expect from a “serious” arthouse film.
The film lifted several elements straight from “The Red Shoes” but did them nowhere nearly as well. I’m sorry, but I found the bit where Natalie Portman turns into a gigantic bird to be ridiculous—it’s not just that it seemed out of place, it just looked bad. Those CGI special effects really were clunky. As far as people turning into monsters, look at films from the 1980s, like “An American Werewolf in London”, they did them so much better. But still the whole transformation thing just felt absurd and alien to the rest of the movie.
Also, I am amazed at the amount of attention given to the lesbian scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. Any number of el cheapo exploitation directors from the late ‘60s/early ’70s could do much better—-the whole thing felt sexless and uninspired. I suppose Mila’s scenery chewing didn’t help matters, either.
You know for all the dismissiveness the arthouse may have for a supposedly “macho” bloodsport film like, say, “North Dallas Forty”, at least Ted Kotcheff’s underrated sports masterpiece captured (with disturbing realism) the price that athletes pay in pursuit of perfection, and I really think that “The Wrestler” also works well in this respect, but for some reason, Darren Aronofsky with “Black Swan” decided to go all weird on us and deliver a series of grotesque party tricks, each one less impressive than the one before it. Anyway, I’m just happy that I live in a city that still plays “The Red Shoes” on a regular basis.
Oh yes, after suffering through “Black Swan”, I too, wanted a refund. But, I follow the old saying, Buyer Beware. I just wish that even half the people who saw “Black Swan” would witness the mastery of “The Red Shoes” on the big screen. The small screen does not do it justice.
Odd that people think of Natalie Portman as a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant). She’s a native of Israel and of course Jewish—she comes across more as a JAP (Jewish American Princess) than your common WASP. Her performance in the above film was fine, but it was squandered on bad material and everything falling apart around her. Such a pity that her first Oscar came from being the standout in a disaster zone.
Susie!! I was actually thinking a lot about how after I saw ‘Mulholland Drive’ in my Lynch film class how Lynch succeeds in many ways that Aronofsky failed. What are your thoughts?
I liked Black Swan, although it certainly wasn’t original. Like Ruby said, it’s a total mashup of Polanski, de Palma, and many many others. However, although not original, I thought the film was good because it was very well-made and It didn’t take itself too seriously. Sometimes films of this sort really get bogged down by being overly serious, coming off pretentious. I’ve often found that a lot of the best horror films have some humorous, campy aspects to them because often the subject matter of many horror films are, while disturbing and horrifying, also quite absurd and over-the-top. Rosemary’s Baby I think is an example of a horror film that is also quite funny. I mean, Rosemary’s Baby is a very disturbing movie, but’s it’s also a movie about a woman who’s so delusional that thinks she’s been impregnated by Satan and thinks that she’s caught up in a conspiracy involving a Satanic cult. It’s so absurd it’s funny, and Polanski knows it’s funny and he does some winking at the audience. Black Swan does the same thing.
Moira Shearer did her own dancing and Natalie Portman pretended like she did her own dancing. Natalie Portman pretended like she masturbated, but she really didn’t. Black Swan sucks because it’s a pretend film.
Because everything that happens on film has to be real, damn it! Next time I see a film that has a murder scene in it in which the actors don’t actually murder each other I’m going to boycott!
No creativity at all? Susie, really? The editing was perfect and the cinematography was top notch. Are not editing and cinematography creative endeavors?
Dear lord i hope that philosophy isnt true for most von Trier films _
Ulicain – I was expecting a film, not a mashup of images and inspirations that a director liked.
50 years ago, all actors did their own dancing. 80 years ago, they did all their own singing. Now that they can’t do either, you want to morally equivocate their lack of talent with murder. Drama queen much?
That’s fine, Susie, but was not the editing and cinematography creative in the completion of the film?
even if black swan was a complete visual ripoff, it’s still better than tarantino’s ripoffs?
It was a joke Jerry.
I don’t see what the problem is with Portman or other actors not doing their own dancing or singing or whatever as long as it looks and sounds like they are. As long as the illusion looks real then the special effect has succeeded. Films are pretend; illusions.
Problem was, even Natalie Portman’s ballet double wasn’t as wonderful as Moira Shearer.
Also, some of the best bits in The Red Shoes are when you get lingering shots of Miss Shearer dancing and it’s clearly Miss Shearer (if that makes sense). Too much choppy editing in Black Swan to disguise the fact that Natalie Portman isn’t doing all her own work detracts from the visual artistry of the film. The cinematography was also a letdown. Nothing like what Jack Cardiff achieved. Apples and oranges.
I know that films are illusions, but the illusions must be attractive. George Lucas fell into the same trap when he went CGI crazy with the more recent trilogy of Star Wars films. By the time he’d finished the third he’d gone into CGI overdrive. The fact that films aren’t real is no excuse to not have them look realistic.
The editing in Black Swan was far from choppy, there was not a mistimed cut in the film. While any shot as multiple points on which to make a cut, preference being what it is, Black Swan featured some of the best editing in a film in a long while. It was perfectly paced.
I don’t see what the problem is with Portman or other actors not doing their own dancing or singing or whatever as long as it looks and sounds like they are.
So what does Portman not doing her own dancing look like? Yes, it’s a non-sensical question, but you asked it.
Going back to the start of the annum, here’s what I scribbled in my Filmography about the movie in question:
Remember “Skin Deep”, where Zach Hutton (John Ritter) wears the glowing condom and quips how he feels like he’s in “the porno version of The Red Shoes”? Somehow I think that’s a film Darren Aronofsky wanted to make with “Black Swan”—it’s softcore smut masquerading as high art, playing like a ballet version of “Showgirls”. Somewhere along the way it becomes a horror film: “Nightmare on Swan Lake”. Trashy.
Eh, when I go to the ballet, I want to see the dancers up close, and I want to linger on them, not have Natalie Portman (or her double) shot from afar. I don’t want to be looking at Nat’s shoulders throughout the whole bloody film, then quick cut and suddenly I’m looking at her double’s legs. I want to see the whole body at once, whole form. The Red Shoes is just like going to the ballet. Black Swan is nothing of the sort.
Next you’ll be telling me that the sequences in The Wrestler were top notch. It was a very good film but the wrestling has been done way better elsewhere on celluloid (I don’t think that Darren Aronofsky knows how to film ballet just like he doesn’t really know what to do when having to film a wrestling match for film), so the result is passable at best).
So, Mark, when you go to the ballet, you are standing on stage? Or are you in the audience like most everyone else? And you are viewing a performance through binoculars, you are making a decision about what You want to be shown, just as Aronofksy made a decision about what to show.
What you are arguing, Mark, is your preference on a subject, not any actual technical or creative fact. And kudos that you have developed a preference, but argue what is presented in a film, not that you wanted in a film. It’s not about you, it’s about the film.
So what does Portman not doing her own dancing look like? Yes, it’s a non-sensical question, but you asked it.
What? Perhaps my sentence was poorly worded. My point was that an actor doesn’t need to do his or her own stunts (or singing or dancing) as long as the filmakers create the illusion that the actor or actress is actually performing the stunts (or dancing or singing). Through editing tricks and special effects the filmmakers created the illusion that Natalie Portman was dancing. If details of the production never came out nobody would have even known that it wasn’t her.
And you are viewing a performance through binoculars
Says who? I make a point of being as close as possible. Front row (maybe second) so it’s in my lap. From where I sit, I can just look straight ahead and see it all.
but argue what is presented in a film, not that you wanted in a film
I am talking about what is presented in the film, and as a ticket-buying customer, I have every damn right to my expectations.
It’s not about you, it’s about the film
Actually, it’s about the viewer. When you cease to make films for an audience, what’s the point of making them?
There is a technique to shooting certain things well on camera, especially dance films. Roger Ebert’s biggest critiques of Xanadu and Staying Alive are about how poorly the dancing is shot as much as his problems with the narrative of each. Now what are you gonna say: “it’s not about you Roger, it’s about the film”? The film is their to meet our expectations, otherwise it becomes self-indulgent crud.
Look at the way The Red Shoes shows its ballet footage compared to Black Swan, it’s a world of difference.
Yes, Mark, it is a world of difference, it’s different people tackling different films.
Granted, one of the most spectacular things about dance numbers like America from West Side Story and many pieces from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (amongst others) is the scope, but Black Swan is a very different film, and while ballet is a component of the film, it is not a Ballet Film.
It’s simple, Mark, Black Swan is not the film for you, it’s not what you wanted it to be, as I’m sure there are many others, but I, for one, am not interested in seeing too many films that are exactly what want them to be.
And really, who gives a fuck about what critics like Ebert or any other critic have to say, I’ll make my own mind, as a human bring, I have every damn right to think for myself.
Give it a try, Mark, it may hurt at first, but you may be able to pull it off… eventually.
Now wait a minute, Ulicain, firstly, I have my own opinion and expectations of a film.
So you criticise me for having my own expectations and preferences for what I wanted the film to be.
Now you are saying that I don’t think for myself?
I smell a backpedaller.
I used Roger as an example, nothing more, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, I totally and utterly disagree with Roger Ebert about Xanadu, I think it’s a wonderful film. So much for your belieft that I don’t think for myself (and you’ve obviously never met me, a conformist is one of the last things I am).
Essentially, what you are is a critic, an amateur one, but a critic none the less, just like Ebert. And since I can think for myself, I don’t give a fuck what you have to say either. So given that you think we should all “think for ourselves”, why are you trying to steer me away from my point of view about “Black Swan”?
Also, the fact that most people love BS ought to tell you that I am willing to go against the grain. You really have no idea with whom you are speaking. Which reminds me: have you ever been to the ballet?
And to say that Black Swan is not a ballet film is an outrageous load of bullshit. hell, you could argue that The Red Shoes is not a ballet film as it is merely a “component” of the larger story. Pffft, please.
The Wrestler is not a wrestling film, the wrestling is merely one component of the story.
The Longest Yard is not a football film, football is only one component of the story.
Hoosiers is not a basketball film, basketball is only one component of the story.
…because, you know, when you make a film that isn’t really about ballet, you call in a body double for your star and have coaches help refine your star’s ballet technique and spend big bucks on the final scene of the film, that just so happens to take place at the ballet.
Yeah, it’s not about ballet, in the same way that Back to the Future isn’t about time travel. It’s actually about incest, the DeLorean is simply a COMPONENT to set it all up.
Really, you slay me…
Is West Side Story any less a film because it wasn’t Natalie Wood signing?
Nah, I think some of you all what too many films to be what you want them to be instead of what they are.
There is nothing wrong with criticizing films, but base Critique on the film itself, not expectations and egotism.
While some film are about the viewers, I’d rather not be pandered to.