Thursday, February 3, 2011

Black Swan. B+

Black Swan has been compared to The Wrestler, but watching it I was more reminded of Lynch's Mulholland Drive. But as much as these two psychotic nightmares are alike, the former isn't nearly as nuts as the latter. And that surprised me, because everything I've heard has indicated that Aronofsky brought weird to a new level with this. Maybe it's a result of the public overreacting, or maybe it's just that I've been living with the buzz of this movie for so long that I expected more than I should have. If I had seen the movie at the Venice Film Festival when no one really knew what Aronfosky had done with his ballet thriller, then I assume it would have shocked me. But that's not to downsize what Aronofsky has done, because he really has made a movie where his eye is more evident than any other director's work from last year. He deserves to win the Oscar for Best Director, because his passion with the camera and with his actors are on full display here. People often ask what good directing is. One answer is when they pull at our emotions precisely the way they wanted to. Watch Black Swan, and you'll see a piece of great directing. Aronofsky produces an amalgam of intoxication and severe discomfort, which had me churning in my seat like I haven't done in a movie before. As for the overall film, I was entranced by it. But I left it without loving it because the hype had me expecting more. The movie didn't become nearly as crazed as I thought it would, and the supposedly freaked out finale wasn't as over-the-top as I'd expected. Honestly, I saw what was happening the entire time. But this doesn't have to be a flaw, instead just a result of false advertising. Seen as merely a look into the perfectionism and psychology of being a ballet dancer, it's utterly original and great. This alone makes it a psychological thriller because ballet is such a stressful, even terrifying passion. But when Aronofsky tries to take it beyond that to true obsession, the movie gets silly. It's entertaining, but it's completely ridiculous and rife with thrills we're already familiar with. Yet, as a whole, this movie is ridiculously well done.

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