Darren Aronofsky's new ballet thriller (yes!) Black Swan premiered at the Venice Film Festival last night and reviews are in. Most people? Most people really liked the film, which sounds weird, dark, and insanely intriguing.
As a sensory experience for the eyes and ears, "Black Swan" provides bountiful stimulation. Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique choreograph the camera in beautiful counterpoint to Portman's dance moves, especially in rehearsals, and the muted color scheme on rather grainy stock look like a more refined version of what the director did on "The Wrestler." Tchaikovsky's ever-present music supplies plenty of its own drama and the dance world details seem plausible enough.
But when the script by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz, based on the latter's story, struggles to carve out a real-world parallel to the life-and-death struggle depicted in the dance story, it goes over the top in something approaching grand guignol fashion.
Ha! Nothing wrong with grand guignol to me.
Aronofsky seems to be operating more in the vein of early Roman Polanski or David Cronenberg at his most operatic. Though the director never immerses us as deeply inside Portman's head as he did Mickey Rourke's in "The Wrestler," the latter third of "Black Swan" depicts a highly subjective view of events that calls to mind the psychological disintegration of both "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby."
"This is no dream! This is really happening!" How exciting.
"Swan" is an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what's so good about it. You might howl at the sheer audacity of mixing mental illness with the body-fatiguing, mind-numbing rigors of ballet, but its lurid imagery and a hellcat competition between two rival dancers is pretty irresistible. Certain to divide audiences, "Swan" won't lack for controversy, but will any of this build an audience? Don't bet against it.
OK, I'm seeing this opening weekend. Ugh, please let it be at the Sunshine instead of the Angelika.
For a Portman-centric read of the views, go flap those eerie bird wings over to Vulture. Unfortunately no one had that much to say about my strange obsession, Mila Kunis, but what little was said was positive. So yay!