Black Swan (2010)

DARREN ARONOFSKY

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB

USA, 2010.  , , , Phoenix Pictures, Dune Entertainment.  Story by , Screenplay by , Andres Heinz, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

The physical manifestations of stress as imposed upon a person trying to reach the top of her game are examined, exploited and gloriously splayed across the screen in this masterpiece by Darren Aronofsky.

Natalie Portman sheds twenty pounds from her already slim frame to play a New York City ballerina whose desire to achieve razor-sharp perfection places mental and physical duress upon her body (and the weight loss on the actress, while disturbing, makes it so much more believable). She is chosen to play the lead in her company’s production of Swan Lake after her determination captures the eye of her director ( in an irresistibly diabolical performance) while her impossible goals inspire his most manipulative traits.

At home, her overbearing mother (a terrifying Barbara Hershey) keeps a close eye on this young woman, simultaneously encouraging her career while fearing its negative effects. At rehearsal, the new girl in the company () tries to become Portman’s friend but is kept at bay as our heroine becomes subconsciously enraged by Kunis’ passionate style of dancing that does not seek perfection in movement but comes across with so much more honesty and vitality.

These characters and more are all held up as mirrors to Portman’s increasingly fragile starlet as this beautifully shot, perfectly directed and edited psychological drama goes from high intensity to unbearable angst: Aronofsky begins by jangling the nerves and never releases the tension throughout the entire film, but includes enough passion, humour and squeamish terror to keep you from being exhausted by the experience.

Many of its psychological methods are simplistic, and it seems to set itself up for secrets that are far too easily predicted, but it never matters; the director paints every movement with such bold, colourful strokes, the film’s dicier moments really tapping into viewers’ primal fears, that the manipulations all work to great satisfaction.

The dancing is fantastic, with Portman seamlessly convincing you that she’s a pro, and Winona Ryder contributes a cameo that gives the film its spine, as the prima ballerina who ends up in the scary and hilarious position that awaits all who seek the glory of this beautifully unreal artform.

Academy Award:  Best Actress (Natalie Portman)
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Director (Darren Aronofsky); Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing

Golden Globe Award:  Best Actress-Drama (Natalie Portman)
Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Supporting Actress (Mila Kunis); Best Director (Darren Aronofsky)

Screen Actors Guild Award:  Best Actress (Natalie Portman)
Nominations: Outstanding Motion Picture Cast; Best Supporting Actress (Mila Kunis)

Toronto International Film Festival:  2010

Venice Film Festival AwardMarcello Mastroianni Award (Mila Kunis)

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