Thursday, 10 February 2011

Black Swan (2010)

So the hype finally got the better of me and I went to see Black Swan, the Natalie Portman starring, Darren Aronofsky directed psychological horror/thriller that so many people have been raving about. The ballet theme of the film was an attractive prospect, as I can be cultured when forced, and with Aronofsky helming, I sat down in the cinema with high hopes. Sadly those hopes were dashed by ninety minutes of tedium shot in headache-inducing hand-held shaky-cam.

Thankfully I did get most of my money's worth with the last quarter of an hour of the film, which was superb. This made for a frustrating experience with the film, as the ending was quite wonderfully stylish and tense, but the uphill slog to get there was infuriating. Natalie Portman puts in the finest performance of the whole ensemble, with Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and the rest of the gang coming across as rather wooden (although Winona Ryder is impressive in her role as an ageing ballet star).

The ballet sequences are nicely handled, with some very clever techniques used in order to trick the viewer into believing Portman is a pro ballet dancer. The techniques are tricky to pick out, but they're impressively done.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the script, which seems to have plundered many of the tropes of the Italian Giallo films of the seventies for its mad folks, set pieces and atmosphere. In fact, once Nina (Portman) starts really going mental during the last act of the film, the atmosphere feels rather like Argento's classic Suspiria, and not just in terms of there being dancers onscreen.

Black Swan, while the final act is stylish and chilling, suffers from an uneven script (three writers on one script? *sigh*), some predictable shock scenes and some pedestrian camera-work. Then again, I think the worst thing the film suffers from is the enormous amount of hype surrounding it.

If the middle act could have been taken out and the first and third extended to meet in the middle, it would have deserved the 'Masterpiece' tag that many people are painting it with. My negative feelings towards much of it aside, its ending is a wonderfully delirious symphony of madness and mayhem, and I must commend the fact that it ends perfectly. It's certainly a film that divides opinion, and mine is most certainly divided.

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