Sunday, July 24, 2011
Let me start this by saying that I never worshiped at the alter of Natalie Portman. I thought she was terrific in "Leon," and I enjoyed her in "V For Vendetta," "Garden State" and "Thor." I have friends who have unfairly given her a lot of crap for the "Star Wars" prequels, and honestly, that wasn't her fault. She's always been very charming and likable, and she presents herself well. Likewise, I've never found her all that physically attractive. Not to denigrate on her, but she's not my type. So, to me, Natalie Portman was always just kind of there.
With that out of the way, I finally watched "Black Swan." And, honestly, I really, really, really regret not seeing this film in theaters. This was the most visually stunning, beautiful film I have seen in a very long time. And, the best part, not one computer was required to make it look beautiful. It was all in the cinematography. The lighting, the camera work, and the acting. This is actual art, and it makes use of practical effects. I've never been a big fan of CGI, and yes, sometimes it is necessary but too often it is used as a crutch, and I was so happy to watch a very visual movie that didn't need it.
And right now, I need to give the first shout out to Director of Photography, Matthew Libatique, and also comment that he got robbed of his Oscar. Yes, yes, I know that went to Wally Pfister for "Inception," and I loved "Inception," but come on. Maybe I am just old fashioned, but the less computer work a movie receives, the more impressed I am.
"Black Swan" is wonderfully disturbing. Darren Aronofsky managed to create a film that can best be described as "All About Eve" as if it were directed by Roman Polanski with help from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Well, that last one is obviously a given. I love psychological thrillers, and watching Natalie Portman descend into madness was a treat. She earned her Oscar.
The film is about a ballet dancer who gets the lead in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, which even ballet ignoramuses like me know is a very demanding role. She has to essentially play two characters with two very different styles. The White and Black Swans. And in this very demanding company, with another dancer who wants her role, as well as guilt over the previous Swan Queen's traffic accident, our heroine descends into madness. And it is a thrill to watch.
I also want to compliment Mila Kunis' performance in the movie. She was fun on "That 70's Show," but watching that series, I never thought she would have been the one to really hit it big. But I underestimated her, and was greatly impressed by what I saw.
Okay, yes, there was a lesbian scene (but there really wasn't), and I know people will want me to talk about it. It was there, it was a powerful scene, but if you're expecting something titillating, sorry to break your heart, but you won'd find it here. The scene was one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire piece. Keep in mind, this is about a dancer descending into madness. It's not a porno. And it saddens me because this scene is the first thing anybody talks about whenever this movie is brought up.
Some may not like the over the top theatricality of it all, but this movie couldn't be anything but. Aronofsky is a gifted director, and I think he probably reigned things in more than some might give him credit for. It was dark and disturbing, but in the wrong hands, this material could have easily been comical. It wasn't comical.
I may have to re-evaluate my list of Top Twenty Favorite Films. This was a masterpiece.