Black Swan…meh.

High hopes. Not quite crushed, but…

1. Highly predictable. Maybe this was because I sat through the movie with an inveterate “ok here’s what happens next” movie partner, but I knew from the start that everything was just a big stress n’ sexual deprivation induced hallucination. I would’ve liked the movie better if there had been more ambiguity here: maybe the other characters start seeing things, aside from Nina?

2. Maybe it’s just the Red Shoes speaking, but the ballet-dancer-gone-bananas trope seems to be, well, a trope. A very tired, grumpy trope that just wants to lean against the barre and smoke its cigarette and twirl its hair.

3. Not enough ballet. Obviously.

Still, I hope the success of this movie will mean more dance movies to come, and hopefully ones with greater depth and thematic flexibility. I love a good campy dance movie, but it seems to me that the possibilities are so much…greater! than camp dance movie or crazy ballerina movie.

9 thoughts on “Black Swan…meh.

  1. Avesraggiana

    Hi! It’s been awhile since I’ve visited your blog and I’m glad you’ve thrown something up about “Black Swan”.

    First, I could barely sit through it because I was so distracted by Natalie Portman hobbling around en pointe and arthritically flapping her arms. I couldn’t make myself get past the dancing and enjoy the movie for what it was supposed to be, a psychological thriller and mild horror picture. I thus denied myself of what would have been a pretty decent moviegoing experience.

    So much was made of how much weight Portman had lost, and for how long she trained. One year. One year! So what? Like that would be enough time to prepare to fake Odile?! Those SAB girls who formed the corps de ballet behind her had been training to move that way for well over a decade, and here were the Hollywood press in a dither because Portman had trained for one year!

    Oscar win notwithstanding, what I do know beyond certainty is that no true ballerina, truly capable of being a real Black Swan would need glittery-eye, movie special effects to pull off the role. The greatest Odiles have done it all with their own faces, and their own bodies.

    Can you tell by this post that I had pretty much missed the whole point of the movie?

    I share your hope that “Black Swan” will introduce a new public to the world of ballet, and broaden its appeal. I also harbour the fear that “Black Swan” will trivialize ballet, and cause the general public to miss the reality of the rigour, dedication, physical strength and transcendent artistry that ballet exacts on all those who choose to practise this very difficult and very beautiful artform.

    Keep up your wonderful writing.

    1. apricot Post author

      Hi there Aves!

      I agree with you completely. I had heard that Portman was training with some great teachers, but honestly, there is only so much a relative beginner can do in a year. Even so, the scenes of Portman dancing left something to be desired. I wished that they had picked an actress with more training, like Neve Campbell (who trained with the National Ballet of Canada through her childhood and teen years, if I remember correctly).

      Like you, I found myself having a difficult time enjoying the movie as it was. My viewing partner didn’t know a thing about ballet but he also didn’t like the movie for its predictability.

      All in all it wasn’t that great, even if one could ignore the stiff dancing, but let’s hope that more film producers/writers/directors become more interested in the possibilities inherent in the ballet world. We’ll have to wait and see. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Sit down, Natalie Portman. « wandering apricot

  3. ack

    I was so terribly disappointed by this movie. I wished that they had made a better choice of actress in the lead role. I feel that Neve Campbell would have been more convincing. Dancing ability aside, Natalie just doesn’t have the look of a dancer. Dancers DO come in all shapes and sizes-but they make it because they bring talent into the mix. Natalie obviously can’t pull that off. I found her “dancing” shots horrid and cringe worthy.

    Even if I tried to move my observation of the film away from the lens of being a dancer…the rest of the movie was just pure fail! Can you say cliche’? Predictable? Oh noes! she must learn to be zee sexxy zoo be zee BLACK swan queen. “I just want to be perfect”. It was comical how bad everything was in this movie! I really fail to see how it became so popular. I really wanted to like it too!

  4. Skulligan

    As one who knows nothing of ballet, and nothing of ballet movies, I did enjoy the movie. =D (ignorance is bliss)
    I can’t defend the cliche of neurotic-dancer-striving-for-perfection-and-ultimately-losing-it, except to say that all story telling is recycled and rehashed (especially in Hollywood).
    I WILL attempt to defend Aronofsky for doing his typical Aronofsky thing, which is to often portray desperate train wrecks in the most cringe worthy way possible. I cite Requiem for a Dream as a great example (you know the heroine addicts wont fair well by the end, but the entertaining part is being aghast as it happens, and as it builds to the climax).
    I didn’t get the impression that they were claiming that Natalie Portman was a good ballet dancer or a prodigy, they just wanted to brag about how much work she put in for a role (and it was a lot. Most actors don’t prepare so much for anything, unless it’s PX90 to look buff for 300). Plus, they had her train for a year so she wouldn’t look like a complete idiot. I think Aronofsky picked Natalie as an actress (god damn, it takes a special talent to cry on film, and Natalie is queen of the breakdown). He was shooting close ups of her face with sweat and veins popping out, with a grimace, to portray the pain she was in (physical and mental). I swear I could hear him off camera yelling at Natalie to pump her arms harder so he could capture more muscles popping out on film. She was not intended to look so hot most of the time, and I think Aronofsky assumed that the audience would accept this and make the juxtaposition in their minds of what they know to be graceful ballerinas, and the gross mess he put on film.

    I found it funny when they super-imposed what’s-her-faces head on a real surfer’s body for a big wave scene in Blue Crush. I’m not a surfer, and it was a really cheesey movie, but it got me jazzed about surfing. I’m sure though, than any genuine surfers think that movie is a piece of poo (it kind of is).

    I’m into special effects myself, and some bad CG or makeup can make me dismiss a movie entirely, despite it’s other merits. There are some I can turn a blind eye to though.

    I know you all related to it as dancers and were left with something to be desired, but I related to it as a neurotic human being with mommy issues, and damn did I think it was a fine movie.

    And ultimately, it wasn’t a ballet movie. Aronofsky just happened to pick a script whose insane main character happened to be a dancer.

    Had they picked a real dancer for this role, or had made a real ballet movie with real dancers who maybe weren’t the best actresses, there would have been less of an audience reach. May I cite Gina Carano, in Haywire recently. She is a real fighter, and plays this cool special agent type in the movie. I love Gina Carano, but the movie was a bit of a flop. And still, they felt the need to alter her voice post production…

    No one really wins, but Gina Carano gets some face time and at least they got an authentic fighter to play a real hard ass special agent type… no twiggy Angelina Jolie for this.

  5. Skulligan

    This reminds me of lip synching. Imposing an actresses head on the body of a real athlete/dancer/what-have-you is no different from lip synching. The only difference is that we now have the technology to do it, whereas lip synching has been happening since sound was introduced to film. I LOVE the movie, La Vie en Rose. None of the songs were actually sung by Marion Cotillard. They hardly even used Edith Piaf’s actual recordings. They had a singer named Jil Aigrot sing what they needed. They could have asked this Jil Aigrot to play Edith in the movie… but I’m guessing they wanted Marion for her acting.
    If people really love and/or are interested in what they see in the film, they’ll bother to look it up.


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