March 23, 2017

TIFF ’10: Additional thoughts on Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan’


By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: So “The King’s Speech” didn’t happen. But it gave me time to come back to the room and write.

Since “Black Swan” has been on my mind from the minute it ended this morning, I wanted to try and elaborate more on its power, its sheer force, its ability to transcend its camp clichés, even as it descends at harrowing speeds into madness.

ButI’ve been asked to wait. Sort of. Embargoes are tough around a festival. Yes, “Black Swan” is playing here. Yes, it has played elsewhere. But it doesn’t open until December. And so to avoid sounding “review-ish,” I’ll say the following about “Black Swan” and leave the rest for you to discover (which is how it should be, really).

Portman is devastatingly good. I don’t want to rush to say this is the best performance of her career, because she has been excellent before and there’s no doubt she’ll be excellent again. What she leans on in “Swan” is the fragility that comes to her naturally. She’s a small woman with a soft-spoken voice but there’s a furious passion inside her that can be tapped when necessary. To borrow images from Aronofsky’s film, Portman – the actress — has a black swan persona lurking beneath the surface, and she doesn’t need the urgings of a Vincent Cassel to set that bird free.

I knew Portman was capable of excellence. “Black Swan” taught me Milas Kunis is, as well. She’s the ideal shadow to Portman’s shimmering light. Oh, Aronofsky loves to play white against black in “Swan,” often through a mirror’s reflection. But I’m getting too deep. And the movie instructs us to let go … as Aronofsky certainly does.

As mentioned, “Black Swan” is camp. It is gothic horror. It is psychological warfare. Like most of Aronofsky’s films before it, “Black Swan” photographs, with brutal honesty, a flawed individual becoming consumed by a quest. Sometimes its for a cure for cancer (as in “The Fountain”). Sometimes its for a taste of the limelight (as in “The Wrestler”). Sometimes its for the role of a lifetime, for approval from a mentor, and for a touch of self-confidence. But no matter how difficult the journey, it’s always compelling to watch.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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