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"Black Swan" {Blu-ray} - (Wayne)
Wayne Klein
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date:
Special Features:

See Below


Painfully obvious and filled with the sort of symbolism that you might see in a high school production of a play (or film), "Black Swan" won kudos not because it is a brilliant film about a ballerina and plays with the audience expectations but more so because of its surprising shift into a horror film about the slide into insanity of the main character. While that twist is certainly clever I found "Black Swan" didn't quite live up to its reputation as it strained to become "art". The closest relative I can think of is Roman Polanski's "Repulsion" but director Darren Aronofsky takes the story and grafts on all of the elements of a Grimms fairy tale (which is appropriate given the story)but the heavy handed symbolism makes "Black Swan" less than the sum of its parts.***


The story as such focuses on the new season for the New York Ballet. Nina Sayers (Portman)struggled to be noticed and earn starring roles the previous year but Thomas (Vincent Cassel) the director of the ballet and its chief choregrapher feels that is technically brilliant but lacks soul. When he unexpectedly awards her the role of the Swan Queen/Black Swan for the debut performance of "Swan Lake", she slides into paranoid schizophrenia believing that those around her including Lily (Mila Kunis)a young up-and-comer are trying to steal the role from her. Her life takes a metaphorical change that reflects that of the heroine of "Swan Lake" as she begins to lose her grip on reality.***


For fans of ballet what makes the film most compelling are the sequences danced by Portman and/or her doubles Sarah Lane and Kimberly Prosa (neither one of which is truly acknowledged the way they should be in the credits of the film). That's not to take away from Portman who had ballet training from the ages of 4-13 and then retrained for a year for this part does an incredible and believable job in the role of Nina Sayers.***

Aronofsky's film still manages to be entertaining despite his heavy handed use of symbolism primarily due to the performances of Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder and Barbara Hershey as Nina's mother Erica. Hershey particularly shines in her role as the obsessed, disturbed stage mother who puts all of her hopes in her daughter's career when hers was derailed due to her pregnancy years before. Erica insists of keeping her daughter in the role of stunted child to control her and realize her own thwarted goals.***

Image & Sound:

The Blu-ray looks quite very grainy with an almost documentary style feel to it--that's intentional so don't blame the transfer and it was Super 16mm shot film. The choice of the format means that "Black Swan" looks very similar to how it looked in theaters so don't be disappointed by the "look" of the film. Since so much of the film uses dark, moody lighting Blu-ray seems like a natural for this film but it also reveals the limitations of the film format this was shot on.***

The audio sounds marvelous with a rich 5.1 mix that will drop you right into the film itself.

Special Features:

The special features a three part 48 minute documentary on the making of the film as well as ten featurettes that focus on Portman, Aronofsky, the costume design and the production design of the film. The piece on Aronofsky reveals the link between this film and his last film the Oscar nominated "The Wrestler" which starred Mickey Rourke.***

Final Words:

"Black Swan" is entertaining and Aronofsky appears to borrowed most of his tricks here from Polanski, David Lynch and David Cronenberg but the results are far less interesting with a more conventional story than those three directors. Ballet fans will enjoy "Black Swan" although it's narrative twists and turns as Nina loses his grip on her sanity might lose some folks.***


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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