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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 12.20.10] movie review



Year: 2010
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I saw Black Swan on the weekend and really liked it, so don't get me wrong if this review sounds like it's negative. What struck me most about it was how the entire thing races along at a fever pitch. Every scene is played to the peak of dramatic climax. Portman is as good as we've heard, Vincent Cassel is amazing as always, and Aronofsky is assured in his direction. So yeah, for what it is, it's pretty epic stuff.


Oddly enough though, I feel like most reviewers are missing the point of the film. I would argue that Black Swan isn't about the "price of ambition," "a tortured creative mind" or even the world of ballet at all. Rather, this is a film about one girl's transition from innocence to adulthood. It's about discovering the power of sexuality and pulling away from childish dependencies to become an autonomous person. It's just that it's told in a very gothic, Polanski-esque way.

In this sense, the film is basically a rehash of Stephen King's "Carrie," minus the religious stuff, but complete with socially awkward introvert, overbearing mother and lots of menstrual metaphors. This is THAT kind of movie, and it's the only way the movie works.

As a thriller it absolutely fails to deliver, because it plays the same note through the entire film, hammering you over the head until you're like "okay, okay I get it. She's at odds with herself." And because the film only exists on a symbolic level, then there's not payoff that really links everything together at the end. At least King had the smarts to turn the story into something supernatural (which, by the way, doesn't make it any less of a smart, symbolic story. It just lives up to the world that's created).

So to close, Black Swan is not a film about the soul of an artist, or a descent into madness, or the injustices of the ballet world, but it is about female sexuality. That's it. Done. But it's pretty compelling stuff none-the-less.

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Phoebe (9 years ago) Reply

I agree with your review!

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donc48 (9 years ago) Reply

Heard this reviewed on the Row three Pod Cast they pretty much mirrored your review. Me I love dancers, love ballerinas, hate ballet. I don’t think ballerinas get enough respect for a physically demanding profession, and one that is as hard to get into as acting.

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michael (9 years ago) Reply

well... I haven't seen the movie.. but I've read the reviews... but not a chance about watching it... but from experience... what you said about the film.. i happens to be true... I dated for almost 2 years a renowned ballerina here in latin america and was her first boyfriend... soo.. the film apart from the quasi paranormal.. is true.. but also the price of ambition and alienating the people who love her... she was very much abusive all the way to physical violence if she didn't have her way or something was in the way (i was her sometimes producer, video/audio/lights engineer, manager.. etc... but i couldn't always do it because i was studying medicine... i had to pay the price dearly...) after close to 2 years... the relationship turned into a nightmare...i finally broke up with her...shit.. i just convinced myself to watch this movie...but anyways.. i know its hard from seeing my ex being a ballerina... but also..they have their own demons...all of them...and it turns such a wonderful girl... lovely and tender... into a real nightmare...the price of ambition... she is now alone...her family disowned her.. and she is married to the ballet...

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John (9 years ago) Reply

Too much agent orange, made you miss the point, which is something most reviewers did not.
Stick to zombies, they re more up your alley.

Magnificent movie!

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

Your review sucks, bad. How you're able to post on this site, boggles me. Then again self assurance such as " That's it. Done." is fitting for such a pretentious website.

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GrummpyGraham (9 years ago) Reply

Are you people serious? This review is dead on! Nice work as usual Quiet Earth reviewers!

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

Right, they are always right, except none of them have any degree or school of film let alone work behind them to support the shit they write, all the while they have the right to their own opininon.

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

I totally agree they have the right on their opinions.
their coverage is the only reason I visit the site regularly.
I find the opinions most of the time arrogant and self indulgent. As if passing on their thoughts are the absolute truths. Any one could cross reference King's Carrie. In fact it's probably the go to reference for any one who reviews Black Swan. All aboard! No true understanding can be held. But site onlookers have their opinions too and I say, as one of those onlookers, most of the reviewers on QE have adolescent views with no keys or structure. Self referencing bantering with a few key adjectives here and there that describes the film.

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

"except none of them have any degree or school of film let alone work behind them to support the **** they write..."

I would argue this to be true of 90% of bloggers :)

This site is FAR from perfect, but at least when I read Quiet Earth I know the writers aren't in some studio's PR pocket. I'll take a little arrogance over boot licking any day.

Also, this review sums up BS pretty decently. I think there's less going on in it than people think.

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John (9 years ago) Reply

The point is not how you write, it is that you stake a claim at the truth and one and only at that. ;(
As for bloggers, so your point is they are what influential?
BS or no BS, therer is a tone and wording to keep if you are a serious reviewer, even when you do not like something, you point out what exactly you did not like, not sell the truth at your price, just because you have a site to.

The movie is playing a plot in your head, leaving everything open to your own personal interpretation, this being a leap forward in Hollywood, as they finally learned something from other cinematographies around the world, especially Asian.

Less or more than we think was the point, because it is open, unlike lemonades served in theaters so far.

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agentorange (9 years ago) Reply

John said: "there is a tone and wording to keep if you are a serious reviewer"

Sorry, but are you serious? Says who? I can only assume you are awkwardly referring to some journalism 101 class you took - inverted pyramid and balanced reporting and all that. And who says I want to be a "serious reviewer"? Don't put that on me, man. I'm a blogger who loves to share thoughts about films - not a wannabe journalist with delusions of grandeur.

In fact the only editorial policy we have at Quiet Earth is to write what we think.

Why should we coddle readers to make them feel okay about not agreeing with our interpretations of films? Should we be ending every review with a disclaimer that says "but, this is just our interpretation and should not be taken as Truth"? No. Because it IS Truth. The very nature of an interpretation is that it is true to me. I believe what I write to be true, which is why it reads that way.

My advice to you, John, is to disagree with me by sharing an alternate Truth of your own in these comments, rather than gripping about "a tone." Do you agree with my assessment of the film? Why? Why not? Did you think Natalie Portman was hot? Whatever, but give me something useful, man.

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John (9 years ago) Reply

Yes I take you guys very seriously, mainly out of respect for your work and information, as I frequent your site each and every day, and a couple of times at that.

Blogger or no blogger, imagine you do not spell-check your reviews, and leave them with errors, you can, sure but how would that look, same with wording, you can pack a punch even if you do not say BS, sucks or something.
Comments are a different beast all together, low kicks allowed. :)
No one said you should coddle the readership base, but as I said, mature people can maturely express their disagreement due to knowledge gained, unlike teenagers with just angst writing.

I do not agree with yours or many other assessments of this particular movie for a couple of reasons.

First I do not like Portman as an actor at all, she is weak at the parts, looks pathetic, and leaves absolutely no impression on me whatsoever, as most weak people do not.
Vincent however is a complete 180 deg, not because I follow his work, or because he is French, but because he really can act, not that that comes to light in blockbuster movies Americans make, unfortunately.

Another issue completely is that the movie depicts what is really going on backstage, and the lapses of in/sanity are very well presented, as they really do happen.
How do I know this, well I grew up in the ready makeup/prop/costume/rooms and backstage in theaters and on movie sets, as my mother is a film and theater producer on National, and as well as independent scene too, so I know how divas backstage act, look like and what really happens in their trailers on sets, as well as the drama, and their personal lives, as I spent most of my childhood around them as well as having them for friends of the family.

This particular movie scrapes that life very eloquently I might add, in a way that is acceptable to a common man not having privy to these famous lives of divas, ballerinas, or stars.

Star itself here is portrayed in an excellent fashion, as these dis-functionalities are indeed present in their lives, as well as controlling suffocating parents.

Emotional attachments and distancing from reality is too, and that is what is also a beauty of this movie.

In short: look at preteen beauty pageants, do you for a moment think those parents create normal children who will not shatter when reality comes tumbling their world down?

That is the essence of this movie, though it might be superficial to a bystander looking in from the outside, inside that world this is a complete true story, and a good one at that.

If the director went further, common audience would fail to understand, as I see it fails to understand this too.

Seeking perfection has an ultimate cost, one you pay dearly, that is the conclusion, spoiler and message of the piece presented.

I wish you all a happy New Year, and all the best in the 2k11!

With regards,

John

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agentorange (9 years ago) Reply

Now THAT is a comment! Thanks for that, John. I enjoyed reading your insights and how they shaped your views on the film and can agree with a lot of what you say.

One thing I would ad though is that Aaronofsky is playing with archetypes in a big way and I would argue that he wants the film to play on a much higher level - like Swan Lake itself. So while I can agree that the very brutal nature of ballet is crushing Portman's mind, so too are basic human conflicts...

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C. Mullen (9 years ago) Reply

Did anyone else see all the references to J-Horror?!? I really enjoyed the film, but frankly Aronofsky took A LOT from the genre of J-Horror and incorporated it (very) well into the film. With this in mind, I'd say BLACK SWAN is closer to a US version of a J-Horror than a "thriller".

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Sandi Z (9 years ago) Reply

Just saw Black Swan and while driving home I was talking about the Carrie connection. I did'nt state it quite as eloquently as you, but recognized it right away. Black Swan is an upper class Carrie. Not in high school, but a Ballet company. Interesting.

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G_D (9 years ago) Reply

I will not watch this on the basis of the nudity/sexual scenes. Was there any need for the lesbian scene in the trailer?? And if they had any class at all they would have made a simple reference to the solo masturbation! I was embarassed that I made my wife watch this as with only 15 minutes we were shown this scene.

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

I thought of "Carrie", too. Tons of similarities...


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