12.28.2010

REVIEW: Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

Acts one and two are seldom striking yet generally involving, with cinematography so intimate a cut to wide feels awkward. I occasionally recall last year's "Public Enemies", in which Michael Mann's shaky-cam stylings sailed overboard, rendering even calmer close-ups headache inducing. Widely, though, Laurence Dunmore's "The Libertine" comes to mind with swirling, long takes encircling performers as organic extensions of their craft. The intense, unbridled third act redeems its predecessors' intermittency with indelible imagery and payoffs for each setup, with the single exception of a questionably included sub-subplot. One could deem the qualitative progression a humble representation of our lead's own shifted demeanor, though little is humble here.

This is a film seen through mirrors. Weighted, reflective symbolism tells our tale, with many major plot points and the main character arc occurring solely through allegory. Advantageously these emblematic layers interlock seamlessly and sensibly in context, from catalysts and symptoms to their victims and beneficiaries and beyond - to the audience ourselves. Not only does Nina's story reflect "Swan Lake" and see extensions of that relationship personified, it all centers on a performance of the notorious ballet itself. Touches of fawning, nonverbal melodrama and Clint Mansell's strong, accent-heavy score create an occasional ballet-as-film feel - not necessarily reliant on but often accompanied by the presence of actual dance.

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