Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Centerpiece Review: Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is not the Centerpiece Selection for this year's Chicago International Film Festival. That one involves James Franco cutting his own arm off, and it's starting any minute now, playing to an audience that doesn't include me. I'll wait to experience Danny Boyle's amped-up colors and attention-deficient edits when everyone else does. But I'm calling this full review of Black Swan my own "Centerpiece" for this year's CIFF because it was by far the quickest title to sell out (implying feverish anticipation, and hopefully an interested audience for this piece!), because sorting through what "grabbed" me in my seat and what rankled me in my mind took some doing, and because I'm not sure I'll manage another essay of equal length before the festival wraps up in about a week.

Short version, for those of you avoiding "spoilers" by staying away from long reviews: Black Swan is easy and in many ways gratifying to enjoy in a pulse-quickening way. But in most respects, it plays to me like a real retreat in layering, empathy, and ambition, compared to Aronofsky's two most recent films. The sound design feels over-worked and the performances under-conditioned, particularly in the key area of dance. Some viewers won't mind and may even relish Aronofsky sleek extrapolation of Swan Lake's stark white/black oppositions and fascination with doubling; others will think he could have brought a much more nuanced structure to this haunted house without violating the obvious register of sinister fairy tale. I think it's a good film (remember, for me, B– really is slightly above average), but I feel disappointed all the same.

That's all I'll say about that if you want to hold out till you've formed your own opinion, in or around early December. But if you've already seen the movie, or you just can't wait to read another take, here you go.

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Blogger NoNo said...

I only skimmed through the complete review because I'm waiting for December but I wanted to see your thoughts on Portman because I know you were a bit hesitant.

Ever since this movie was casted, I wondered if the lack of a trained dancer/actress (like Zoe Saldana) would've effected the direction of the movie. You can't have the dancing in silhouette like Benjamin Button.

10:47 PM, October 13, 2010  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

I'm debating whether or not to read the review. I mean, I read an early draft for the script in January, so I probably won't be affected by spoilers. I probably shouldn't have read the script, though, my excitement waned afterward.

11:21 AM, October 14, 2010  
Blogger Lev Lewis said...

I find myself having nothing to contest here, even though I liked the film quite a bit more than you. An odd position to be in.

And not to be demanding, because you've already given us so much this fall, but I'm going to have to put in a formal request for reviews of My Joy and The Social Network.

11:26 AM, October 14, 2010  
Anonymous Anthony Vawser said...

Wow, what a review...You write at the level of detail, eloquence and insight that I would expect from an academic paper, yet remaining almost totally accessible, readable and enjoyable; you have a real gift! Did you manage to write that from just one viewing? I've seen the film four times and probably couldn't get as much out of it as you did! (If I haven't already made it obvious, I love the film, but I really admire your mixed review as a strong, thoughtful piece of analysis crossed with opinion; I look forward to exploring your site!)

9:37 PM, June 06, 2011  
Anonymous Ella Thomson said...

Based from what I’ve watched, I felt disappointed with it. I felt that the ballet dancers were not totally conditioned and trained for the movie. Well if you compare how the ballet dancers do their thing from the opera houses, they are more trained; I’ve watched one after I bought some tickets royal albert hall, I swear they dance better than the dancers in the movie.

2:19 PM, February 20, 2013  

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