Black Swan

Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese think I’m an idiot. They may be right.

Talking about people who say (in regard to Raging Bull) “I don’t like to go to movies about boxing” or (in general) “I don’t like to go to movies about _____”, Ebert, in conversation with Scorsese, declares “anyone who makes that statement is an idiot”.

“A film is not about its subject. It’s about how its about its subject”, he goes on. Excellent point.

Still, to this day, I couldn’t bring myself to watch Raging Bull. Because it’s about boxing. I hate boxing. I don’t want to see boxing. Not in real life, not on television, not in the movies. No matter how highly regarded they are.

That’s why I have no intention of watching Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, either. I liked his previous films, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, a lot. But I skipped The Wrestler. (And yes, I know that wrestling is not the same as boxing.)

So I was glad that for his latest film, Black Swan, Aronofsky chose a subject that’s about as far away from sweaty dudes hitting each other in the face as one can get: ballet.

It’s hard to define what kind of movie Black Swan is. Drama, Thriller, Horror, Fantasy, dance flick… All and none of the above. It takes it themes of paranoia, obsession, sexual repression and blind ambition from the European art house cinema of Polanski (Obsession) and Haneke (La pianiste). But basically, it’s a work of beauty, about beauty.

Tchaikovsky and frequent Aranofski-collaborator Clint Mansell merge in a magnifent score that was disqualified for the Oscar-race because it is “diluted by the use of tracked themes or other pre-existing music”, which is a shame. The five nominations it did get, Cinematography (Matthew Libatique), Editing (Andrew Weisblum), Acting (Natalie Portman), Directing and Best Picture, are all highly deserved, but, shoo-in Portman aside, won’t bring home the Oscar gold on the 27th.

I watched Black Swan a second time this week, and the two supporting performances by Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis really stood out to me. (Granted, I’ve been a fan of both actors for a long time now.) Portman is certainly carrying the heaviest load here, but Cassel and Kunis are much more than just side players. It’s genious casting, too. Frenchman Cassel has that look of cold contempt down like no other, while Kunis effortlessly seduces everyone and anyone in her way (including the audience).

I highly recommend Black Swan. And if you’re saying you don’t want to see a movie about ballet… well, Roger Ebert has some choice words to say about you.

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