Black Swan

Black Swan

Format: Cinema

Release date: 21 January 2011

Venues: nationwide

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin

Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey

USA 2010

110 mins

I love this movie to death! To pinch myself to see if I was dreaming, I attended a second showing during the 2010 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival with my wife and 9-year-old-daughter in tow. Bearing a passing resemblance to The Addams Family we settled in for an evening of prime family entertainment. I wasn’t dreaming. Black Swan is exactly the sort of film we’ll all look upon as a milestone in cinema history. It’s Powell/Pressburger’s The Red Shoes meets Mankiewicz’s All about Eve meets Verhoeven’s Showgirls with heavy doses of Polanski’s Repulsion - and then some!

Director Darren Aronofsky etches the tale of Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballerina driven to achieving the highest level of artistry, brutally encouraged by crazed impresario Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), thwarted by her possessive, narcissistic mother (Barbara Hershey), terrified at the prospect of failure exemplified by an ageing prima ballerina (Winona Ryder) and most of all, facing the threat of extinction by Lilly (Mila Kunis), an earthy rival with less technique, but greater raw passion - something Nina desperately needs to wrench from the depths of her soul to move beyond mere technical virtuosity. O, glorious melodrama! Replete with catty invective hurled with meat-cleaver sharpness, corporeal cat fights, blistering mother-daughter snipe-fests, swelteringly moist masturbation, scorching lesbo action, furious anonymous sex in nightclub washrooms and delectable over-the-top blood-letting, Black Swan is one motherfucker of an ice cream sundae with not one, not two, not three, but a jar-full of maraschino cherries in a pool of glistening globs of red syrup on top.

The performances are expertly pitched to melodrama. Miss Portman commands with such bravado that it will be the performance to beat in the coming awards season. Mila Kunis is raw, gorgeous and sexy as all get out. Winona Ryder proves to be a worthy successor to the suffering bitch goddess Susan Hayward. Barbara Hershey drags us into the demonic bilge barrel of great movie harridans. While last, but certainly not least, Vincent Cassel is a perfect impresario: part genius, cocksman and Mephistopheles.

This is a rewrite of a review that first appeared during the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival at Daily Film Dose. It was first published on the Electric Sheep website as part of our coverage of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

Some have already referred to Black Swan as ‘The Red Shoes on acid’. They couldn’t be more wrong. Powell/Pressburger’s The Red Shoes is already on acid. From my vantage point, Aronofsky’s Black Swan is pure crack cocaine - a free-base dose to rival that which lit Richard Pryor up like a flaming Weihnachtsbaum.

Greg Klymkiw

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