Adult Movies III

film 3 of 4

Black Swan

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 5, 2014

Director Darren Aronofsky and his collaborators have been up-front about their inspirations, and the precedents are profound. This is Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes, of course, by way of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. There’s some archaeological value there, I guess, a sense of heritage, as well as of artistic and cultural evolution. Some of the 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. Let’s add a bit of The Phantom of the Paradise (cool feather imagery!) to The Red Shoes and Repulsion ingredients, and then a lot of Brian De Palma generally. And what do you get? Dave Kehr wrote admiringly about Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 King Lear adaptation 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, really quite 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: this dire movie concludes amazingly!