Black Swan – 2010

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey

Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin

“Let’s Dance” Lyrics by David Bowie

“Let’s dance
Let’s dance
Let’s dance, put on your red shoes and dance the blues
Let’s dance, to the song they’re playin’ on the radio…”

Well, in The Black Swan, there is no radio in sight.  The shoes are kind of pink, with the occasional red splotch on them when her toe bursts, and her fingers, and her back, eyes, etc…The dancing is not blue, rather, more of a perfectly lifeless white, an occasionally dominant black with occasional outbursts of the aforementioned red.

“…Let’s sway, while colour lights up your face
Let’s sway, sway through the crowd to an empty space…”

Nina Sayers (Portman) has a face desperately in need of colour.  There is no swaying to her dancing, it seems perfectly barren of any enjoyment of dancing or life. Plenty of empty space behind Nina’s eyes.  But there’s this other girl, Lily (Kunis) out there…she has an uncanny ability to be the exact opposite of Sayers in every way.  She does a lot of the swaying, and a little less of the robotic perfection.

“…If you say run, I’ll run with you
And if you say hide, we’ll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower…”

Then there’s this other guy, let’s call him Le Coach (Cassel) who demands the running, the hiding, the trembling, the deflowering.  He want’s Sayers to act a little less perfect and a little more like a slut.  He says as much several times.  His coaching method worked like a charm for his last leading lady, Beth (Ryder), who “retires” early, drinks a little much, swears a lot, and throws herself in front of automobiles.  Something tells me that our current lead might want to reconsider her future.  That is, if she could apply more than manic energy into her present.

“…Let’s dance
Let’s dance
Let’s dance, for fear your grace should fall
Let’s dance, for fear tonight is all…”

Of course in any ballet, opening night is a kind of big deal.  You have no real sense that it is approaching, because director Aronofsky spends much of the movie amidst the quivering lips and tense face of Portman.  Then, at about the 1:15 mark, it’s kind of made a little clearer, like a freight train of fear running through Sayers like Patton’s glorious “crap through a goose.”  Then there is the fear, and then the big fall, foreshadowed like a giant piece of bad art on the screen.

“…Let’s sway, you could look into my eyes
Let’s sway, under the moonlight, this serious moonlight…”

Just about every moment of this film is serious, right down to the calculated casualness of the wonderful Mila Kunis.  She had the right touch to evade the ten pound hammer of obvious art wielded by Aronofsky like Thor on a bender.  So many moments of this film are made so clear, you want to throw mud in your eyes…as it looks like happens to our “heroine.”  As for the swaying, Kunis’ lithe movements are like an oasis on a cold, dead moon.

“…And if you say run, I’ll run with you
And if you say hide, we’ll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower
Let’s dance
Let’s dance…”

In case you did not catch it the first time, the chick Sayers’ got 99 problems and there are more than a few bitches among them.  Mom is no support group, but she has almost as many gears as the daughter.  Problem is, the gears only go higher and higher.  No time for tea, eat a huge piece of cake or she’s going to throw it all out.  You can always throw it up the next time you succeed at something.

I think I get the message that the director and his one note higher than the last actress are trying to get across.  If you don’t dance for fun, you die.  And they call it art.

(** out of *****)


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