Film Review by Dean Duncan Aug 21, 2014

They’ve been up-front about their inspirations, and the precedents are profound.  It’s The Red Shoes, of course, by way of Repulsion.  There’s some archaeological value there, I guess, a sense of artistic and cultural evolution.  Some of dance stuff is pretty great, too, and in a way that owes nothing to Michael Powell.  We get some of the infrastructure and hierarchy, and we get a lot of the preparation and rehearsal and the hard work, some by plain, direct documentary means.  Interestingly, that’s not the only method applying here.  And operatic or expressionistic approaches are okay sometimes, aren’t they?

Plus, what a rotten movie.  Add a bit of The Phantom of the Paradise (cool feather imagery!) to The Red Shoes and Repulsion ingredients, or a lot of Brian De Palma generally.  What do you get?  Dave Kehr wrote admiringly about Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, but paused to note that the film couldn’t seem to imagine a middle ground between oppression and chaos.  True, and as Kehr would acknowledge there is some historical and political truth to that terrible binary.  I guess Aronofsky’s Black Swan binary exists too, but there’s not much to be said for a vision that gives us nothing to choose between infantilization (Barbara Hershey’s bunker) and degradation.  Put this in the Leaving Las Vegas category of humilio-Oscars: submit to whoppingly demeaning requirements and we’ll applaud most moistly at the Shrine auditorium.  Ms. Portman is brave indeed, and apart from a bit of one-note, pretty good.  But with regard to self-sacrificing performance we should be looking to Falconetti and Dreyer, not to Lars von Trier.  Let’s be fair: superb conclusion!