Natalie Portman, a deeply dark 'Black Swan': movie review
Natalie Portman stars in a ballet film that's a 'willfully deranged quasi-horrorfest.'
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The technique of visually connecting a crazy person's interior and exterior worlds has been in the movies since at least "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920). But Nina has so little psychological substance in "Black Swan," and Portman's performance is so glacéed, that watching her come apart seems like an exercise in voyeurism. Or sadism. It doesn't even matter, on some level, if Nina is a dancer. Her obsession with ballet has very little to do with artistic expression – it's obsession for the sake of obsession (an Aronofsky specialty – see "The Wrestler" and "Pi").Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Natalie Portman's roles
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Aronofsky doesn't exactly demonstrate a reverence for the art himself. He uses the ballet world, with its notoriously grueling physical and psychological regimens, as an excuse for a Grand Guignol meltdown. (The ballet's score in the film, by the way, is not 100 percent Tchaikovsky, which means this is the second time in a month that Pyotr Ilyich has gotten the bum's rush in the movies – the other being the execrable new "Nutcracker 3-D," which doesn't even feature dancing.)
It was around the time Nina sprouted feathers that I decided "Black Swan" was either a vast put-on (too obvious) or vastly pretentious (more likely). Many moviegoers, especially high-toned ones, will believe otherwise. For them, anything this feverishly absurd and obviously made by smart people must be a work of art.
You can pick out all the references in this movie to other movies, not only "Red Shoes" and "Caligari," but also, for starters, "Phantom of the Opera," "All About Eve," "Repulsion," and Aronofsky's own dreamy-druggy freak show "Requiem for a Dream." In the end, however, "Black Swan" has the distinction of being its own beast. It's a dubious distinction. Grade: C- (Rated R for strong sexual content, violent images, language, and drug use.)
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