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11 February 2011

Black Swan

directed by Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky is a bold filmmaker, and I mean bold in the explorer, philosopher, alchemist sense: a true visionary who refuses to acknowledge any limits. In (that’s Pi for all you literature majors), Aronofsky delved into the mind and the metaphysics of mathematics. In Requiem for a Dream, he showed us the darkest heart of a life unsnuffed, a hellish downward spiral of lingering trauma, and in The Fountain, he bravely salvaged a film from the rubble of flaky A-listers who felt the need to drop out of classics in the works so they could star as mythological heroes in lesser projects (there’s a back story here. Go find it). In The Wrestler, Mr. A gave us a ramshackle opus about the will to survive, and with Black Swan, Darren probes the psyche with a zealot’s fervor. Natalie Portman is her best ever (even better than her revelatory turn in Léon) as Nina, the fragile perfectionist who fears what might happen if she lets herself go. When her director (a reliably stunning Vincent Cassel) casts her as both Odette and Odile in his new interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Nina’s nerves begin take their toll, and she struggles to reconcile the two personalities she plans to embody. Portman and Mila Kunis (in full on, spectacular siren mode) set the screen ablaze with all sorts of chemistry, so don’t sit too close to the screen (or you’ll get burned. Get it?). Black Swan is trippy, twisty, and tantalizing; a true blue, swing for the fences feat that is as heady as anything this side of Mulholland Drive. Cinematography-wise, I wasn’t thrilled: I’m just not a fan of that sort of washed out, sort of “realistic” lighting that shows us life’s flaws. It reminds me of when the lights come on in the bar at 2am and you get a good look at the creatures of the night. Chilling. But hey, that’s a personal preference. I’m more partial to the ornately elegant look of The Social Network (this year, at least), but I would take a vibrant, David LaChappelle cinematographic gut punch, RIZE-style, any day of the week.

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