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Customer Review

326 of 421 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing short of brilliant, December 3, 2010
This review is from: Black Swan (DVD)
Darren Aronofsky has been circling movie news sites pretty frequently as of late. He recently signed on to direct the stand-alone sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (appropriately titled The Wolverine). He also developed a rather large and devoted fanbase over the course of directing fantastically surreal films such as Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler, but his psychological thriller Black Swan has also been gaining quite a bit of steam leading up to its December 3rd release. Despite Aronofsky's already well-established reputation and the rather high anticipation for the film, Black Swan still delivers a product that is even better than expected.

Like most ballerinas, Nina (Portman) lives, breathes, and is completely devoted to dance. Artistic director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) is preparing a new spring production of his interpretation of Swan Lake. Nina is next in line to become prima ballerina after the former dancer to hold that spot, Beth Macintyre (Ryder), reluctantly retires. Everything seems to be shifting in that direction until a rather unorthodox, provocative, and unstable (in a dangerous kind of way) dancer named Lily (Kunis) arrives. Lily seems to have an eye for Nina's spot as soon as she walks through the door. Thomas begins to see Nina as the White Swan, which signifies innocence and perfection and Lily as the Black Swan, which is more sensual and deceptive. The problem is that one dancer is required to play both parts. Other than the stiff competition she has to deal with, The Swan Queen role begins to take its toll on Nina who begins to think Lily wants even more than her spot in the production. Nina's obsessive behavior leads to her releasing her dark side that she must now struggle to control.

Aronofsky has always had an exceptional eye for cinematography in his films. His use of micro-photography in The Fountain made the entire film a visually stunning spectacle that will stand the test of time while something like a someone's pupil dilating or a drug deal gone bad in Requiem for a Dream is memorable because of the way and angle Aronofsky shot it rather than relying on its disturbing content to make the scene a classic. Black Swan is no different. Being placed behind Nina whenever she heads to the dance venue gives the viewer a rather unique third person perspective that also gives the impression that you're walking right behind the main character of the film. The intense dream sequences are also shot in a way that flawlessly blur the line between reality and hallucination. Is this really happening or is it all a figment of Nina's deteriorating imagination? Figuring that out is half the film's charm.

The extraordinary main cast is the main ingredient to the film being as great as it is though. The key players all seem to have this twisted side to them that is nearly the exact opposite of the way they first appear to be, which coincides with the Swan Lake theme. Winona Ryder steals most of the screen time she's given whether she's trashing her dressing room, yelling obscenities in Portman's face, or sitting in a hospital room. Even though Mila Kunis seems to play nothing more than her role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall to the most extreme degree on the surface, it's the edge she's given that results in unpredictability for her character. While Vincent Cassel's performance is strong thanks to his sensual reputation with his dancers and Barbara Hersey is both charming and disturbing as Nina's mother who seems to secretly be trying to live in her daughter's dance shoes after a missed opportunity in her past, it's no surprise to hear that Natalie Portman is the heart of the film. Nina is so consumed with dance that she keeps pushing herself even when her mind and body begin to show her that she's had enough. Her breakdowns are heartbreaking and engaging to watch while her transformation by the end of the film can best be described as a monstrous beauty. It's all thanks to Portman's powerful, phenomenal, tour de force performance.

While some might not be surprised that Aronofsky has created yet another masterpiece, this may be his most solid and well-rounded film to date. Black Swan is a beautiful, disturbing, and captivating work of art that features gorgeous camera work, an excellent and mindbending story, and what is perhaps the performance of Natalie Portman's career. It's hard to argue with Black Swan being the best film of the year.
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Showing 21-30 of 47 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 3, 2011 8:02:32 PM PDT
C. Sawin says:
I thought it was just a way to show that the dual role of the White Swan/Black Swan was getting under Nina's skin. Literally. In addition to the whole performance and preparation getting to Nina mentally, that's the way it took its toll physically.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 3, 2011 10:12:39 PM PDT
taikotari says:
That makes sense. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2011 2:03:10 AM PDT
C. Sawin says:
No problem. Thanks for reading.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2011 10:34:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2011 10:38:34 AM PDT
I would say that the scratching--and don't forget peeling off her fingers and nails and so on--was done to touch an emotion in the audience. To make you cringe. It certainly didn't move the story forward. It didn't have anything to do with her wanting to be perfect.

Now that I read C. Sawin's opinion posted yesterday about "getting under Nina's skin," I can go with that.

Posted on Apr 4, 2011 9:07:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2011 9:08:42 PM PDT
A customer says:
Thank-you for your comprehensive review, obviously based on sound knowledge and writing a balanced and almost complete revue. The reason for saying almost is that you ommitted any comment on image and sound quality. But you concentrated on the important qualities of the film, and you have convinced me to order a copy immediately. Ignore the couple of negative comments. From their tone and misuse of language, they lack half a brain between them (I know I shouldn't attack people, but these comments got me irritated). I now depart this comment to place an order. Thank you again. - Bryan.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2011 9:12:40 PM PDT
C. Sawin says:
Chuck, I agree with your comment as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2011 9:14:07 PM PDT
C. Sawin says:
Wow, Bryan. That's very kind of you. Thank you very much. This review is easily my best received and most commented review on Amazon. For that, I thank everyone who's commented or read it and being a part of this. It's very flattering whether you gave me a helpful vote or not.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2011 9:53:21 PM PDT
A customer says:
C Swan,
It is my pleasure. So many reviews are brief, subjective comments, written as if the writer knew what he/she is talking about. It's ok if they stick to saying they liked it or not, but if they go on to say it is a bad film when they lack the knowledge to give an impartial objective comment. it's, as I said, irritating. Reviews such as this one, are models of how a review should be written, making subjective and objective comments clear as to what they are. I'm getting carried away, so I must stop. But congratulations again - Bryan,

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2011 10:15:17 PM PDT
taikotari says:
Thanks, this also makes sense. I think Nina's peeling off her fingers and nails was my first aha moment that she's delutional. "Cringe" and "getting under Nina's skin" is a very good takeaway from this. Thanks guys.
I think this is such an incredible movie because it really makes you think and rethink and question it further. I was looking for a forum to talk about this, and found C. Sawin's comment the most productive place to do it. Thanks, once again!

Posted on Apr 5, 2011 11:13:47 AM PDT
nadine says:
I think Nina's self-mutilation was a result of her overbearing mother. Apparently she has been doing it for a long time because near the beginning of the movie her mom asks her if she's been scratching again, and then she goes through what seems like a routine of cutting her nails. It's almost like her "id" subconciously trying to burst out from being so overprotected, if that makes sense.

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