Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Movie Review: Black Swan

So, I made a few New Years Resolutions this weekend. While most of them have little or nothing to do with anyone reading this website, one of them most definitely does. Can anyone guess what that resolution is?

Well, as most of you have almost certainly noticed, I have been very bad about posting for the past few months. I have been busy with school and social life so much that I forgot to post, and even went entire months without posting. However, I am here to say that this is about to end. My New Years Resolution for 2011 is simple: Get Back on the Posting Wagon, and bring this review site back from the dead.

As for eating brains... well, we'll get back to you on that one.

So, do you all remember back when I was making semi-regular reviews? If you do, you might remember my review of the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which I described as something along the lines of the strangest film ever put onto the silver screen. But now I find myself coming back to the reviewing world older and wiser, and realize that movies that throw strangeness in your face are nowhere near as strange as the ones that seamlessly integrate the bizarre and the mundane together into one singular world, resulting in something so fundamentally disturbing that you no longer feel safe going into a theater. So with that basic premise in mind, let’s dive into Black Swan.

Before I begin, I would like to point out something that I have discovered in my career as a stage actor, that being that the performing arts are EVIL. When people think of evil, most often they find themselves picturing images of black-armored dark overlords with twirly mustachios and big hats, but for me the image of evil is something much more subtle, that of a director. I’ve been in quite a number of plays in my 20 odd years riding this giant ball of water and noise pollution that I recognize that directors have no respect for human life or dignity, and also possibly eat puppies for breakfast in the morning. That all said, I consider myself to be one of the lucky breed of performing artist, in that I was born with the invaluable blessing of being completely unable to dance.


“But FaceGuy, you incomparable stallion,” you are probably asking yourself, “how could you possibly consider the inability to dance anything resembling a blessing? Doesn’t that give you a tremendous disadvantage in the theater world?” That assessment would be absolutely correct, but it also means that I don’t have to deal with the true demons that reside within the performing arts, the Sauron to the Director’s Witch King, the Emperor Palpatine to their Darth Vader, the Steven Spielberg to their Indiana Jones. I am referring to dance instructors, the people who we in the theater biz often fear more than your average Baptist fears God. These people are so disturbingly obsessed with their art that they seem to forget that they are dealing with human beings, whose bodies were not meant to contort in ways that would make an invertebrate wince.

To answer the problem of the limitations of the human body, a dance instructor who I will choose to name “Darth Adolph Satan” invented Ballet. And this is where Black Swan comes in.Black Swan follows the story of a young, talented Mind Slave Ballet Dancer, played by Natalie Portman, as she goes through the process of rehearsing for the role of her career, the Swan Queen in the famous Ballet Swan Lake, which is among the most beautiful ballets ever devised by the arch demons of Hell. This part requires her to take on two drastically contrasting characters, the White Swan who symbolizes purity and innocence, and the Black Swan, who represents sexuality and deception. As the name of the movie suggests, our heroine’s story focuses on her apparent inability to get into the mindset of the Black Swan, and her attempts to do so drive her to Joker levels of batshit crazy.

"Girl, you have some issues you really need to work through. I can relate. Here's my card."

Those of you who have not seen this movie yet will likely be surprised to hear that I wholeheartedly classify this movie under the genre of “Psychological Horror.” True, the movie is about a ballet dancer, but remember the world of pure evil that ballet dancers live in on a day to day basis. From a very young age, these poor souls are subjected to exercises that are more appropriately classified as torture methods that reshape their bodies in specific ways so that they can do things that human beings were never, EVER meant to do. While they may dance beautifully, ballet dancers legs become quite horribly deformed after a few years of subjugation to this training, which in later years results with everything from crippling pain to the complete inability to walk. So the personality required to tolerate this sort of lifestyle is already probably a little bit on the crazy/obsessed side, and when Portman starts to tackle the character of the Black Swan… well, let’s just say that I don’t get nightmares from movies. Like… ever. But the night after I saw this film, I had nightmares that were quite directly related to it. See, not only is Black Swan solidly in the genre of psychological horror, but it’s one of the BEST movies of that genre that I have ever seen. The transition between a sane world and the dark, twisted imaginations of Portman’s increasingly unhinged mindset is done so seamlessly and effortlessly that we barely even notice it until things start going really downhill in the third act. By the last shot of the movie, she has gone so far off the deep end that she might as well send in her application for the next big Marvel Supervillain.

What this movie is really about though, I feel, is the nature of genius. Whatever we might be able to say about Portman’s character in the film, one thing that we can definitely agree on is that she is a brilliant dancer. However, it is that same drive and obsession that led her to become a great dancer that became her inevitable downfall. This movie really goes out of its way to show, in no uncertain terms, just how much being obsessively focused can damage you. Yes, you can become brilliant - just like Vincent Van Gough or Mozart - but neither of them ended well, either.

Here's a clue.

So, bare bones of the movie. Is it good? Well… this is one of those times where I really don’t know. It’s one of those movies that I recognize as a genius work of art, but one that I never want to see again as long as I live. I don’t want to analyze it because I am afraid that if I do, I’ll start to understand it, and if I understand it then I might be just as nuts as the characters portrayed in the story. So… yes, it’s a good film. The imagery is stunning, the story is compelling, the characters are engaging, but all in a deeply disturbing way. It’s very much like Eraserhead or Brazil in that way - it’s a masterfully crafted piece of cinema, but you find yourself at the end never wanting to have anything to do with it ever again. Whether or not that makes it a good movie for you is entirely your opinion, but for me… well, I’ll let the grade speak for itself.

Final Grade: A-

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fun movie. And yey!!!! You're posting again!