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Home » Culture and Criticism

Black Swan

Submitted by on January 31, 2011 – 6:49 PM31 Comments

"I am ze shit, non?"

Death Race 38, Sarah 18; 1 of 24 categories completed

I didn’t know what to make of Black Swan during the movie, and I still don’t. It’s laughably obvious, ambiguous, sentimental, frustrating, dark, sharply observed, and hackneyed; it’s all of those things in a single line of dialogue, more than once. But it isn’t boring. I couldn’t wait to see where it went next, even when I (correctly) guessed Stupidville or Overwroughtistan as the destination.

It’s a fascinating film and it isn’t afraid to stumble or get laughed at, and in that way, I admire it; in that way, it’s good. At the same time, though, something about it doesn’t jell. Something’s off. I keep going back to a conversation I had about it with Wing the evening before seeing it: she said that Aronofsky doesn’t know how to do camp, and she’d have liked to see the same movie directed by, say, Todd Haynes. Leaving aside the question of whether it’s still camp if you consciously know how to do it, she’s onto something with that observation, although I’d tweak it somewhat — it’s not that Aronofsky doesn’t know how to engage with campy material (although I’d agree that he doesn’t), but rather that he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to treat Black Swan as camp or as straight-ahead, deeply felt drama.

But I can’t decide. Maybe he wanted to walk the line with it exactly the way he did; maybe the tension between the disturbing and the risible is intentional. I’ve liked Aronofsky’s work in the past, but he hasn’t struck me as a guy who directs with much humor…and at times the laughter is just discomfort.

The for-beginners symbology raises the same questions for me. Ballet itself is laden to the point of sinking with signifiers — all the pink, all the artifice; the extreme strength and Spartan-with-a-capital-S privation that go into creating the illusion of gamine frailty; pair after pair of pricey shoes, purposefully ruined to get the best performance from them — and the Swan Lake ballet in particular leaves very little room for nuance. Light versus dark, innocence and purity versus sex and death, the triumph of evil, et cetera and so on, and Nina’s room is pink while her harridan mother’s is green! Nina needs her diaphragm realigned! Stuffed animals down the incinerator hole into a sticky hell maw! FUCKING OKAY!

At times, though, in the midst of that swirling cocktail of every Joseph Campbell mythic element, shading happens. Barbara Hershey is the envious, vicarious gargoyle mother, and also the valiant protector, the only thing between Nina and a shot of Thorazine. The man in the black creature drag backstage walks past Nina and chirps, “Hey!”

But: Winona stabbing herself in the face with a nail file and cawing, “NOTHING!!” The webbed feet. The climactic bars of the music itself, which other Solondz fans may unfortunately associate with a scene in Welcome to the Dollhouse — played for laughs — in which Dawn’s mother, despairing at her non-Dawn daughter Missy’s kidnapping, bangs her head down on the kitchen table and keens. Missy is about six and wears a tutu everywhere. So: that.

But…but. But…and then…but then. It’s just completely too much and won’t let me decide what it is, which is annoying — but the Venn diagram of “great art” and “hot mess” is 95% overlap. (Exhibit A: Vincent Cassel’s entire performance, which is trite and fuckable at the same time. Dear Vincent Cassel: How’d you do that? Call me. I love you.) If you’ve seen the film and sided with “hot mess,” I can co-sign that, and I hesitate to call it great art, but it’s so watchable and provocative that I have to think it’s doing something right. I…just don’t know if I can say what, exactly.

As for the hardware, it looks like the Oscar is Portman’s; she won the SAG last night, and that’s usually that, and that’s fine with me. Generally I don’t care for her and think she’s overrated, and I also think rather too much has been made of her ruthless preparation for the role, but with that said, she does a great job with a part that could have easily turned into 101 variations on “high-strung.” The character is irritating at times, but for once that’s not on Portman. Of the performances I’ve seen in the category, I liked Bening’s the best, and I wish she could win, but Portman’s does have the higher difficulty rating. It’s also worth noting that the movie got a Best Director nod, but nothing for the script; I could see Aronofsky winning, which is also fine with me, because the way he alternates between claustrophobic and agoraphobic shot set-ups is compelling.

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31 Comments »

  • haras25 says:

    Thanks for summarizing some of the thoughts I had about this movie. I went to see it last week (alone, unfortunately – that may have been part of my problem) and left with the following thoughts:

    That was weird.

    I liked it.

    Sort of.

    I think.

    Maybe not…maybe I hated it.

    I rarely have such a conflicting reaction to a movie. I can definitely see why it has the nominations, but I can’t decide if it deserved them.

  • Deanna says:

    This was the first movie my husband and I saw in theaters since Inglourious Basterds (…what? Good sitters are hard to find!) and I’m glad we chose this one; it wasn’t always our thing but it was always entertaining. But as far as Aronofsky goes, I preferred The Wrestler.

    Also, I SERIOUSLY question our local theater’s choice to put an anti-meth poster directly opposite the exit. The last thing you want to see after watching Black Swan is a poster of a girl strung out on meth and clawing the shit out of her shoulder. Gaaah.

  • tyliag says:

    The Biggest drawback of the entire movie was Hershey for me. I got where the character was supposed to go, but where she went was on a non-stop trip coo-coo batshit town and I didn’t want to go along for the ride. She brought down and derailed what was otherwise a really entertaining flick. And I’m not sure you can convince me that that was Hershey acting as written, cause that felt like Hershey just going off the rails to go off the rails, not really add anything to the story…. At least that’s my take. I don’t know enough about swan lake to determine if there was a counterpart to Hershey’s character in the ballet, that might have helped explain her presence, but I was just driven nuts by her.

  • Todd K says:

    I strongly disliked this. It is the only one in the running for anything major, so far, to press my personal “END! PLEASE!” button. I summed it up elsewhere as Repulsion, Gypsy, The Red Shoes, The Turning Point, Showgirls, and DA’s own better stuff blended into goo, sprinkled with puerile shock-show gimmicks and hoary false dichotomies about technique-versus-‘freedom’. And even though I know we’re not supposed to care, and the ballet itself is more or less the MacGuffin, I still wondered what in that staging of Black Swan was so radical and innovative in the Cassel character’s mind, to live up to the buildup he gives when he announces it (paraphrasing: “Yes, yes, I know. But this Black Swan will be different! This will be Black Swan as it has never been done!”) Are we supposed to think he’s manipulative, irritating, pretentious *and* a hack?

    I did like Barbara Hershey’s performance, and was surprised it was Kunis who was getting the awards attention.

    Portman’s is *exactly* the kind of pretty-girl-shows-range display that has dominated this category in the last 13 years. She will slot in very neatly alongside Gwyneth, Julia, Charlize, Halle, Reese, Sandra, and the rest. But I don’t know…I sense a potential upset. I don’t agree about the degree of difficulty, necessarily. Yes, for the role’s athletic/artistic demands, but the actual dramatic acting, which is what it really should come down to? In that department, more was asked of both Williams and Bening (I have not seen Lawrence or Kidman yet). When the deadline looms, I think Bening’s prior nominations, her age, and that whole dinner-with-Paul sequence (all of it: the sincerely connecting with Paul while at the same time obviously trying too hard, the Joni sing-along, the discovery of the evidence, the wine-guzzling and the haunted zoning out) will tip the scales for her.

  • Todd K says:

    I meant “Swan Lake,” at the relevant points in the first paragraph.

  • Driver B says:

    I really liked Natalie’s performance, although it does smack of that ‘I lost 50 pounds/got ugly/played disabled’ trope that the Academy loves so much. I was ok with the obvious light vs. dark themes – I think it would be hard to do ballet/Swan Lake without a bit of cliche.

    The thing that bothered me was the seeming disregard for subtlety or arc. Wouldn’t it have been just that much better if Nina started out as merely tense, and then devolved into totally crazy? She hallucinates an evil version of herself when she is walking home from practice very early in the film. From that moment, I felt like the tension was already up to 10 and just stayed there.

    Also, I get that the ‘transforming’ scenes and other bloody bits were there for the shock value, bot mostly they just took me out of the space. When her legs change into bird sticks? UGH.

    (btw – I thought that maybe Wino stabbing herself in the face was another thing that Nina dreamed up? Hard to tell, and I’m not going to see it again, so.)

  • Monty says:

    Although it aggravated me, I ended up liking it a lot. I think it’s because at least it was ambitious. I’d rather see a movie trying to do something crazy and almost succeeding if the other choice is a movie not trying to do anything and achieving that.

  • Jenn says:

    The black/white stuff was SO HEAVY-HANDED. Nina’s always in white, Lily’s always in black, Cassel’s office is black and white, WE GET IT. It was really distracting.

    I thought Mila Kunis was excellent, though.

  • Kristen B says:

    “Exhibit A: Vincent Cassel’s entire performance, which is trite and fuckable at the same time. Dear Vincent Cassel: How’d you do that? Call me. I love you.”

    Oh my word YES. At one point in the film I remember thinking: “God he’s a pig…and so fucking hot…”

    For my money it was Natalie’s performance that kept the film from completely tipping over into campiness. If she’d been a lesser actress this wouldn’t have been much more than a fun snark-fest. But her descent into madness was so believable and riveting that I was with the movie the whole way. (It probably also helped that there are several sequences in the movie that have you thinking, “Wait, is this reality? or is this happening in Nina’s head?”)

    “btw – I thought that maybe Wino stabbing herself in the face was another thing that Nina dreamed up.”

    Exactly. And then I start thinking: wait, maybe NINA stabbed Winona in the face, and only hallucinated that Wino did it herself. After all, we saw Nina drop the bloody letter opener in the elevator, which would have been impossible if Wino had still actually been stabbing herself as Nina fled. Or as Nina hallucinated as she fled. Did Nina actually even go to the hospital!?

    Damnit, Aronofsky. You’re going to make me rent the DVD and listen to the director’s commentary to find out which parts of the movie were real and which were hallucinations, aren’t you? AREN’T YOU!?!?

  • Sam says:

    I read that the director had originally wanted to do this movie and The Wrestler as the same movie, so I’m thinking his attempt at camp was a late addition after his, I think, cinematographer pointed out the two different stories should be two films instead.

    I like the take on this film that if we were seeing it as it actually happened it’d be just a Rudy-type ballet film, but we’re seeing the way Nina *feels* about what’s happening. Like when I’m on my bike I like to pretend I’m in an Olympic race because is makes my lazy ass feel better when I meet my goal.

    I like Portman and Benning equally but I hope Benning wins so if nothing else everyone will stop going on about how she’s so overdue. (I disagree with that.)

  • Drew says:

    This movie infuriated me, and I’m at a loss for why it’s been so well-received. It’s not a re-watch for me, either, although I’m still tempted to, just to go back and decide whether Portman’s performance was actually good, or the praise was, as others have said, simply a reflection of the year’s worth of preparation she put into it. I think the only reason I sort of liked her was that when stood up next to most of her body of work (Closer, notwithstanding), she’s asked to play multiple emotions and manages to play them pretty convincingly.

    In the meantime, besides being bathed in all of the obvious symbolism, the whole thing is bathed in a generous coating of melodramatic cheese, Hershey’s doing warmed over Piper-Laurie-in-Carrie, Winona Ryder borrowed the worst chapters from Angelina Jolie’s Girl, Interrupted playbook, and Mila Kunis was…there, too. Cassel was the only one who worked for me, although I’m a straight guy, so the the convergence of “trite and fuckable” doesn’t apply to me. I think, though, that he was able to recognize how inherently stupid the whole thing is and embrace that, but with enough smarts to avoid playing his role with the scenery chewing that could have so easily developed.

  • Jennym says:

    It’s been a month since I saw this now and I still don’t know whether I liked it or couldn’t stand it — it still makes me feel…. claustrophobic? Just thinking about it now I’m kind of sitting here with my shoulders hunched, wincing. I did laugh, several times, but it was more of a release of tension rather than actual amusement. I think I’m coming down more on the side that about 85% or more of what we saw was happening purely in Nina’s head. I’m not sure I’m ready to say *all* of it was, but….

    And yes — Vincent Cassel: so icky and yet so totally hot.

  • Kelly says:

    So, movies should not require previous viewings in order to be enjoyable. I’ll lead with that disclaimer. But.

    I flipping loved Black Swan, and I think it’s because I love the excessive melodramas of Powell & Pressburger (I love Douglas Sirk too, but saw less of his influence here). The movie reads as a love letter to RED SHOES and BLACK NARCISSUS to me. Add in the personal, unsettling touches of body horror, and undergrads will be writing about this movie forever. Yes, we’ve seen ladies go crazy on screen before (my co-workers and I started a list of movies with “Women be crazy!” as one of their themes, but then we stopped, because that’s in pretty much every movie). But the wallowing in its moments of excess and gore gives it this bonkers mix of high and low drama, and it’s just so daring simply because we don’t see movies like that these days. Or ever. Maybe PEEPING TOM. Anyway. I just love to see movies that, as you said Sars, are trying to do something different, that are daring even if they fail, and I love it even more when they get out into mainstream culture the way this one has. I thought THE WRESTLER was incredibly boring and annoying, and whereas THE FOUNTAIN wasn’t good, I saw him trying something and being much more interesting in failure than WRESTLER was in its success. So you go make your bonkers over-the-top movies, Darren. I may be the only one there, but I’ll be there.

  • Kizz says:

    The Wrestler is, thus far, my favorite Aronofsky flick. This one, though, might be the culmination of whatever he’s trying to do, wherever he’s trying to grow into as a movie maker.

    I’ve seen a few of his other films and they’re…interesting. They’re just not my thing. When he goes down that rabbit hole of surreal dreamscape gore and insanity I can never quite go with him.

    Then he makes the Wrestler where he’s more grounded in reality because he’s got a main character whose job is kind of a ridiculous rabbit hole of surreal dreamscape gore and insanity. So, for me, it worked and I fell in love with Rourke all over again.

    Black Swan has ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular to stand in for pro-wrestling. Then he still finds a way to go down that rabbit hole he loves so much and Winona is stabbing herself and someone needs plucking and hot girl on girl action and bent, broken legs blah blah blah fishcakes (tm TWoP). When he went all out and gave her the webbed feet it was too much for me, it was a call back to the earlier flicks and what I didn’t love about them but I could see how, a guy who has made all the movies he’s made would wind up making this one.

    So, I guess, as a filmmaker it’s sort of interesting to see someone clearly stepping from stone to stone and growing. The film was…fine. It did make me jump in my seat. Cassel was delicious. I didn’t love Portman but I rarely do. I’m mostly just wondering when we can talk about the fact that she’s cited this role as the one that taught her how “some actors” can lose themselves in a part and she’s knocked up by the dude who choreographed her in what’s being called the performance of her career in a movie about a ballerina sleeping with the dude who choreographed her in the performance of her career and yet no one is putting up big flags of HELLO I THINK YOU MIGHT BE “SOME ACTOR” right now.

    But, you know, that’s not really about the movie.

  • Ebeth says:

    Haven’t seen the movie; I wanted to read Sars’ take on it, but I couldn’t get past the word “jell”. While I was reading the rest of the review I kept thinking, “Really? Jell? Huh. Maybe I’ve never written it and have only said it. I thought it was gell. But that’s what you put in your hair.” So there’s that. And the hilarious photo caption. Thanks, Sars!

  • Cora says:

    I haven’t seen the movie. I read the synopsis on MovieSpoiler.com — does anybody see any parallels to David Lynch here? I’m not familiar with any of Aronofsky’s work; but do you remember how everyone thought Lynch was such an artist until they all woke up and realized he’s just a misogynist poser? The synopsis reminded me of the same vibe, that “Hey! Let’s watch a whole lot of beautiful women humiliate themselves and call it art! That way, we can actually enjoy ourselves watching them bleed/vomit/have yucky sex/get dirty the way we want to!” Am I extrapolating?

  • Drew says:

    Anyone who wants a good Vincent Cassel-starring hot mess should check out Le Pacte des Loups (that’s Brotherhood of the Wolf for those not of the French persuasion). I always forget that he was in that one, but then I see the look on his face in this entry’s photo, and I think to myself, “Damn, how did I not recognize that guy? He makes that face 127,000 times in Brotherhood.” (and wears a long period-piece pony-tailed wig, to boot).

    Anyhow, take a period piece/costume drama, throw in a supernatural thriller, political conspiracy plots, some Crouching Tiger-style martial arts, Cassel doing his thing, and God knows what-all else, stir it around, and dip it in some cheese fondue. This is the result. Good times.

  • Tracy says:

    I loved it. Every cliche, every over-the-top minute of it. Having spent some years in the ballet world as a dancer (though never at the level depicted in the film), Aronofsky captured the notion of what happens to the brain (in extreme) when the body refuses to do what the mind asks of it. The failures are public and so visible, which further feeds the fury, sadness, frustration, sense of personal betrayal, fear of frailty, and total crazypants. Portman, who does nothing for me, managed to show some of that on her face from time to time. Not necessarily Oscar-worthy, but certainly in service of the story.

    Recently heard an interview that Portman was only supposed to train for X weeks/months, but the shooting schedule kept getting pushed back, and so she sort of got stuck with this 10-month ordeal because of financing.

  • Todd K says:

    I do see broad similarities between Aronovsky and Lynch: they mingle realism and surrealism, reality and dream/hallucination, and they also occasionally make a linear and easily comprehensible film, showing that they *can* (The Straight Story, The Wrestler). There’s a shared concern for visual texture too, although Lynch is more…painterly, I think (he began as a painter). They both can (not always) seem to lack compassion for their characters, not only the female ones.

    But Lynch is more challenging and more the acquired taste. Had Lynch made Black Swan, people would have left with fewer answers, and we wouldn’t be having a “camp or not?” dialogue. He wouldn’t make anything accessible enough to be camp.

    I don’t think Lynch is a misogynistic poseur, or ever has been outed as one. If he has tarnished his own reputation as an artist (he is a sincere and gifted one), it’s because he often has failed to take what’s locked up in his head and make something of it that other people can wrap theirs around. In being hit-or-miss at achieving that, he’s following in the tradition of some European masters he grew up with. He has some of their reserve too. I would say Aronovsky is more eager to communicate, be understood, be part of a cinematic mainstream. (Which is not to say I think he’s a whore.)

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I loved this movie. I can see the problems, but that interferes not with my love. I don’t know why exactly–I don’t really feel one way or another about ballet or Portman–but to me this really blended in a way that perfectly captures the screeching insanity, with islands of “take a deep breath now” that goes on in a young woman’s head, especially when she’s a creative person in the incestous torture house that is a ballet company. In a wierd way, to me, it “got” more of what it is to be a woman, to become a woman, than any film I’ve seen since Labyrinth. (Make of that what you will.)

    I liked that Nina’s on the edge from frame one–this is a girl who’s been simultaneously tortured and adored by her mother and her art since she came out of her (SACRIFICIAL MARYTR MOTHER’S!) womb. Her room is her only safe spot but it keeps her infantilized and is constantly invaded by “Boundries Are For The Corps!” mom.

    Another detail, very realistically done in the midst of chaos, is Nina’s bulimia. It’s made clear that this is such a well-worn part of her life that it is not considered a problem, which makes it all the more chilling. The body horror, in general, was much more terrifying to me than in something like the Saw films or Hostel. It serves the story rather than tries to be the story.

    And when Nina’s dancing the black swan, totally overcome by pyschosis and delirium, dancing better, more passionately then she ever has as those arms transform into wings and she spins and spins and spins and is finally, finally perfect–well, I got the shivers that I get when a piece of art really grabs me. So Aronofsky got what he was going after, I think.

  • Laura says:

    Jen S said: “The body horror, in general, was much more terrifying to me than in something like the Saw films or Hostel.”

    This is the whole reason that I haven’t seen this movie yet. I am an avid dancer and will watch anything with dance in it, but I am also very impressionable and avoid horror at all costs. I’m left with massive cognitive dissonance.

  • CC says:

    I don’t get some of the problems people have with the movie. Yes, it’s over the top, melodramatic, easy symbolism, “too much.” So what? It’s great when art is subtle and naturalistic, but operatic Grand Guignol is just as valid an artistic mode.

    If the reaction is ‘I didn’t like it, it didn’t connect with me’ then fine, not every movie is for everyone. But this nonsense about ‘Is it camp or not’ just boggles me.

    Some people seem to feel like, because the movie isn’t subtle, they can’t like it without compromising their self-images as people who like intelligent art. It’s not subtle, it’s over the top, it must be camp, something we should laugh at to prove we’re smarter than that.

    The feelings Black Swan depicts and evokes are melodramatic, over the top feelings. It’s a visceral movie, it’s meant to make you feel, not so much to make you think. Nina doesn’t have a nuanced perspective. She’s immature, so the symbolism she perceives is A-B-C level stuff. It’s not subtle, but it tells the story.

    Blunt tools can be powerful too, if they’re used right.

    Dead Ringers, a clear antecedent to Black Swan, earned wide critical acclaim. It’s a film about loss of identity that repeatedly uses imagery of twins and mirrors. Subtle? No. Effective? Yes. Is Black Swan attracting more ambiguous reactions because it’s about a woman, and while stories about high-strung men are Drama, stories about high-strung women are automatically considered shrill and melodramatic? I wonder.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    For me it was heightened by the fact that the physical horror was not on its own, but was a direct outcropping of the mental tortures Nina puts herself through–so yeah, it makes a big, big impression. However, they manage to telegraph it just enough so the squeamish can cover their eyes and wait until the “OMIGODS” in the audience tells them it’s over (I took full advantage of this, believe me.)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    It’s not a question of “should” — I DID laugh at it, several times. That scene where Nina is masturbating and then notices her mother there, probably thanks to the thudding sting on the score that underlines the point: girl, please. The idea that, because Nina is emotionally immature, she interacts with symbology in this way is actually the best one I’ve heard, but not responding to the movie and wondering whether Aronofsky’s whipsawing through various tones is intentional doesn’t necessarily mean we want to distance ourselves from genuine emotion. It could just mean that the director is not entirely succeeding in controlling his material.

    As for the question you ask in the last graf, I don’t doubt that there’s sexism running through some of the negative reactions to the movie. But having experienced real-life Ninae in the past, it’s not a sexist response that makes me exhausted with that character. It’s exhaustion.

  • Meg says:

    I was also caught by Jen S’s comment: “Another detail, very realistically done in the midst of chaos, is Nina’s bulimia. It’s made clear that this is such a well-worn part of her life that it is not considered a problem, which makes it all the more chilling. The body horror, in general, was much more terrifying to me than in something like the Saw films or Hostel. It serves the story rather than tries to be the story.”

    I was a dancer, I am a dancer, I will continue to be a dancer. However, I haven’t been in a ballet class in 5 years (I have shifted to concentrate solely on hula to save what’s left of my back after so many years of forcing it for a ‘perfection’ it ultimately couldn’t give.). Still, this movie slammed me straight back into the world of competitive dance–Aronofsky nailed the abuse (mental, physical, either, both) that a performer undergoes when trying to inhabit a role/dance routine in a way that satisfies the instructor/director. It had me standing profile to the mirror, working through a barre routine while obsessing over the size of my stomach and butt. So yes, he nailed it.

    It was an uncomfortable movie, and one I’m not sure I’ll watch all the way through again. Still, it grabbed me and didn’t let go for the entire time I was in the theater. I continue to think about it (and work to climb back out of the heightened body consciousness it gifted me). I already liked Portman, so she was an easy sell for me, but I was impressed with how effectively she inhabited a character who was written as a complete high wire act.

    As a side-note, did anyone catch how much the “getting pointe shoes ready for class” scene ripped off Center Stage?

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    My last comment was for Laura, by the way. Sorry.

    And Vincent Cassell, he’s just delightfully yummy, but I always only see him as decadent incestual murdering wine-guzzling asshole pyscho characters. It must be so hard on his mom! “Darling, couldn’t you play a nice teacher with a loving family, just once? Do it for mama!”

  • Esi says:

    In the recent New York article on Aronofsky, he said he was surprised by the laughter, since that’s not usual for his movies. But not surprised in a bad way, just found it unexpected, but totally understands. I think one thing I dig about the movie, and Aronofsky’s work in general, is that he just makes the movie. And however you take it in is fine by him. He’s not getting caught up in the “shoulds” and the “message”. He did his work and now it’s our job. Maybe that’s the thing that this move is doing “right”.

    [Sidebar: Kept getting Vincent Cassell confused with Vincent Gallo as I watched it and feeling really, REALLY dirty and bad about myself. Much relief was had when I realized my mistake.]

  • Maren says:

    As a side-note, did anyone catch how much the “getting pointe shoes ready for class” scene ripped off Center Stage?

    We went home and watched that movie on Netflix right after, and had to laugh at how many portions of the movie (jealous stage mother, Lincoln Center, ruining the toe shoes) ended up in Black Swan. I really do wonder how many dance films Aronofsky watched beforehand because he used a lot more tropes than he maybe admits or even realizes.

  • Deirdre says:

    My primary feeling coming out of it was that Hitchcock would have loved it. Which, in this instance, is not a compliment.

  • Deb says:

    I loved it like a loving thing. I loved how visceral it was and I really loved Mila in it (though to be honest, it took me a while to take her seriously in it and not keep thinking, Meg! Jackie!) but when she was dancing with her hair flowing, it was beautiful to me. When Natalie Portman became the black swan, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

    And yes, yes, a million times yes about what Jen said about body horror, I felt that way too. I also v. strongly felt the ballerina/Lady MacBeth drive for ambition through it which also resonated.

    I didn’t find it campy honestly. Uncomfortable in parts and obvious, yes, but not campy.

    Also, spot on about Vincent – Yum!/Ick!

  • LL says:

    I tried to like this film, but the tonal shifts (from surreal to camp to drama) took me out of the film. It starts out seeming somewhat creepy and possibly surreal, but eventually succumbs to hackneyed stereotypes about catty, vampish rival dancers. The lesbian scene was exploitative, wanna be softcore porn…..
    The other problem is that we never get a clear sense of why Nina is crazy and no one around here seems to have a clue either. It’s also hard to care whether she gets the lead or not; the character is too distracted and neurotic to truly sympathize with. imo Portman’s performance is overrated and not worthy of the Oscar she won. Jennifer Lawrence or Annette Bening would have been better choices
    Speaking of David Lynch, I would love to see what he could do with the same material. Lynch knows how to do surreal and I don’t think the misoynist label is a fair assessment. He actually cares about his female protagonists and bothers to make them smart, and not totally crazy

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