Posted on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 by Peter Sciretta
Update: we’ve updated the post with more reviews.
Darren Aronofsky‘s ballet thriller Black Swan premiers tonight at the Venice Film Festival. The first press screening just got out and I can’t express how jealous I am of everyone who has seen it. The initial buzz is now online, and is available below. Hit the jump to read excerpts from the reviews and tweets from the festival-goers and critics in Venice.
Variety: “Aronofsky seems to be operating more in the vein of early Roman Polanski or David Cronenberg at his most operatic.” … “A wicked, sexy and ultimately devastating study of a young dancer’s all-consuming ambition,” … “Aronofsky and costume designer Amy Westcott are none too subtle with the film’s symbolism, dressing Nina in innocent white outfits while those around her wear darker and considerably more ominous colors. These exaggerated stylistic choices (somewhat at odds with Aronofsky’s documentary-like sense of detail and Matthew Libatique’s handheld shooting style) extend to the production design as well, adding yet another motif: Reflective surfaces, mostly mirrors, offer fleeting glimpses of Nina’s other half.” … “Coupled with Clint Mansell’s score, which expands upon Tchaikovsky’s original “Swan Lake” compositions to suggest something considerably more macabre (further aided by proper horror-movie sound design), the result is an unsettling yet ultimately intuitive blend of classical and contempo techniques.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “Trying to coax a horror-thriller out of the world of ballet doesn’t begin to work for Darren Aronofsky.” … “The movie is so damn out-there in every way that you can’t help admiring Aronofsky for daring to be so very, very absurd.” … n instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what’s so good about it. You might howl at the sheer audacity of mixing mental illness with the body-fatiguing, mind-numbing rigors of ballet, but its lurid imagery and a hellcat competition between two rival dancers is pretty irresistible. Certain to divide audiences, “Swan” won’t lack for controversy.” … “Portman, who has danced but is no ballerina, does a more than credible job in the big dance numbers and the tough rehearsals that are so essential to the film. In her acting, too, you sense she has bravely ventured out of her comfort zone to play a character slowly losing sight of herself. It’s a bravura performance.” … “Kunis makes a perfect alternate to Portman, equally as lithe and dark but a smirk of self-assurance in place of Portman’s wide-eyed fearfulness. Indeed, White Swan/Black Swan dynamics almost work, but the horror-movie nonsense drags everything down the rabbit hole of preposterousness.”
Screen International: “Darren Aronofsky soars to new heights with Black Swan, an enthralling drama set in the competitive world of ballet. Alternately disturbing and exhilarating, this dark study of a mentally fragile performer derailed by her obsession with perfection is one of the most exciting films to come out of the Hollywood system this year.” … “a bold display of cinematic fireworks that will leave audiences breathless.” … “If you can imagine The Turning Point run through with the psychological disturbia of Repulsion or Rosemary’s Baby, you get the gist of Black Swan.” … “Portman is captivating” … “she captures the confusion of a repressed young woman thrown into a world of danger and temptation with frightening veracity.” … “Aronofsky and his faithful DP Matthew Libatique work wonders with the dance sequences, bringing them to life through ingenious and diverse camera movements, while keeping Nina’s off-stage life grainy, hand-held and claustrophobic.”
Telegraph: “Powerful, gripping and always intriguing, it also features a lead performance from Natalie Portman that elevates her from a substantial leading actress to major star likely to be lifting awards in the near future.” … “Aronovsky makes great play of a colour scheme featuring mostly black and white (while Tomas dresses mainly in grey). But some details are tellingly observed – the preponderance of pink in Nina’s bedroom,a collection of soft toys, and the Swan Lake ringtone on her phone that lets her know Mother’s calling. Tchaikovsky’s music takes on an unsettling quality as Nina’s descent progresses, all the way to the disturbing but perfect ending. Black Swan is an exhilarating if uneasy ride, one that could deliver Aronofsky his second Golden Lion here in three years (he won in 2008 with The Wrestler). As for Portman, she can expect a busy few months at awards dinners.”
Indiewire: “As a sensory experience for the eyes and ears, Black Swan provides bountiful stimulation. Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique choreograph the camera in beautiful counterpoint to Portman’s dance moves, especially in rehearsals, and the muted color scheme on rather grainy stock look like a more refined version of what the director did on The Wrestler. Tchaikovsky’s ever-present music supplies plenty of its own drama and the dance world details seem plausible enough. But when the script by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz, based on the latter’s story, struggles to carve out a real-world parallel to the life-and-death struggle depicted in the dance story, it goes over the top in something approaching grand guignol fashion. Particularly grating is Hershey’s insufferable mother character, who persists in calling Nina “my sweet girl” and barging into Nina’s room whenever she feels like it while nursing a perennial grudge over having given up her own career to raise her daughter, to the point where she resembles the mother in “Carrie” more than someone who actually lives in the real world.”
ObessedWithFilm: “Best film I’ve seen all year. Left me devastated, excited, tense and emotionally drained. Tarantino will be a fool if he doesn’t give this the Golden Lion (unless something even better is coming up!). Aronofsky has made his first masterpiece and Portman must now be favourite for the Oscar. A perfect film that blends The Red Shoes with Antichrist, via Cronenberg.”
Guy Lodge of Incontention: BLACK SWAN (A-) How to even tweet this? Aronofsky extends The Wrestler’s fascination with physically broken performers to the psychological. Results are at once florid and fine-cut; dances thrillingly on the border of trash before a sharp left into modern fairytale. Having said that, I can imagine a lot of people disagreeing.
Jorge Carreon of The Examiner: VENICE 2010: Aronoksky’s Black Swan is en pointe as an unforgettable portrait on the madness of perfection. Natalie Portman is devastating.
We will update this story with more reviews as they hit. Keep checking back!
Here’s the official synopsis:
BLACK SWAN follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter’s professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.
Black Swan will appear at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, and opens in the US on December 1.