‘Black Swan’ Too Black For Some People


18 February 2011| No Comments on ‘Black Swan’ Too Black For Some People     by Sean Chavel


First off, Black Swan is a great film for what it sets out to accomplish but it doesn’t mean it’s a film for everybody. I understand that for some people “Black Swan” is too upsetting a portrait in watching self-destructing young women push themselves to perfection to such inhumane degrees that they lose their inner life. Life is a bubble for ballerinas who practice 12 hours a day, stick to a strict diet, pedicure their toes until they bleed, and go to sleep early only to day after day repeat the cycle. Natalie Portman, who delivers a tour de force performance worthy of an Oscar, is more than just a case of extreme discipline; her Nina is an obsessive-compulsive type willing to break herself for headline success.

“Black Swan” is undoubtedly visually mesmerizing, thanks to the direction of Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler,” “Requiem for a Dream”), but I hope this doesn’t perplex readers when I say that it isn’t exactly beautiful. This is a psychodrama about girls’ self-destruction, and it is more wound inflicting than life-embracing clemency. This is a dark, claustrophobic, reality-fractured paranoia. While most audiences that attend appreciate this, there are some that just wince. It’s one hopeful thing to “get” a movie and appreciate it, but for those who don’t love it then let’s say it’s understandable.

If you want pretty ballet, go to “The Red Shoes” (1948). This is a dazzling and lush Technicolor spectacle by British vanguards Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. If you like old films, it is a criterion must to get familiar with them. They are responsible for more visual grandeur of the 1940’s than most directors were ever able to muster (see “The Thief of Baghdad,” “Stairway to Heaven” and “Black Narcissus” among others). Redhead Moira Shearer, svelte and lissome as well as demonstrative of perfect verticality on her toes, is arguably the greatest dancer who ever lived. But don’t get me wrong. I have no problem at looking at Cyd Charisse.

Anti-sentimentalists might find that it starts off too goody-goody and old-fashioned precious. The good manners might keep you at arm’s length at first. But beneath the placid veneer is jealousy and backstabbing of one ballet company impresario whose tyrannical instinct is to break up love and the private life of prima ballerina, Victoria, who works under him. Boris (Anton Walbrook) wants absolute obedience and control of those who scuttle in his theater company. Victoria wants world-renowned success but she also wants composer Julian (Marius Goring). She is wrangled between two forces that bequeath unfair ultimatums. 

If nothing else cue to the 65 minute mark of the movie for the centerpiece 15-minute ballet sequence which uses morphing settings, pink-tinged smoke, mirror illusions and levitating magic against painted impressionistic backdrops, and once done, all I can say is that it evokes a “Wizard of Oz” wonderland – one of the most supremely lavish sequences ever filmed. A visual spread implementing the arts of dance, movement, composition and color design unlike anything you have ever seen. And it is with almost certainty something you will never see again. I decided to browse the comments by Netflix member reviews and virtually everybody comments that it is the most beautiful ballet film ever made.

What we have here are two 5-star ballet films of Black versus Red. When it comes down to brass tax, it’s all about what you are in the mood for. The movie adventurer should see both.

“The Red Shoes” was Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Editing and won for Best Music and Best Art Direction. The Best Director nomination was retardedly overlooked, but the winner was John Huston for “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” but in this case you can’t argue with justifiable good taste.

“Black Swan” is currently nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. The 83rd Academy Awards are scheduled for February 27th. If Aronofsky and Powell met in the afterlife I bet they would have a good time trading notes on Nina and Victoria.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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