Fucking unnerving picture.

You’d think a movie about ballet would be boring but nope. Continuing to show his range, Darren Aranofsky (who rivals Michael Mann for the honor of being Evan’s favorite filmmaker) has here made a psycho-sexual thriller that owes to Cronenberg while remaining certifiably its own worthy self.

Why do I call it psycho-sexual? Well, because you can clearly see in the trailers that some shit be goin’ down in this young girl’s mind. And a lot of that shit has to do with sexual repression that begins to bleed out at the edges when the pressures of her performance and the expectations of others get too high to handle.

With The Wrestler, Aranofsky proved he could be more than that stylized visual-poem guy who likes to tackle weird, metaphysical subject matter and freak out his audience with madness and beauty. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of this restrained (reduced?) version of the guy, but you can’t argue with the performances he’s getting out of his actors or the confidence of craft he is displaying while he plays with a more mainstream-y style in his films. Hell, as long as he keeps working with Clint Mansell and infusing his films with iconic imagery and music, even if those elements take a backseat sometimes, I’ll be a fan.

In Black Swan there are enough visual flourishes and sublime music cues to keep any fan of this guy happy. Moments like Lily’s tattoo expanding while Nina’s skin ripples in time with the rhythm of the sex they’re having show that spark that was (and had to be) absent in The Wrestler. Of course, as Nina goes crazier and crazier, more and more crazy shit happens with the whole bird motif so there’s also that.

Speaking of performances, though. Nathalie Portman is pretty much my favorite actress. She has been since I started getting really into movies and watched stuff like Garden State, The Professional, and Closer in like the same year or so. Not only is she a great actress but she has a sense of humor blended with a sophistication that simply puts her in her own class. In this film, she is totally tuned down and repressed until she isn’t. This kind of thing is easy mode for her and while it was a great performance, I wouldn’t say it was a very surprising one. Only because she’s so good does this seem like something she could do in her sleep. That said, I don’t know much about how much of the athletic component is her so I am prepared to be impressed by that.

Her milkshake? Better than yours.

To be honest, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel also deliver but neither of them walks away with the movie or anything either. Kunis is underrated and doing movies like this is going to up her profile considerably more than Book of Eli (she’s no action heroine… yet?). Here she is doing something a bit more serious but is still playing a wildcat which is a type she owns. Cassel is the smug, slightly sinister European and he’s been that a lot. Can’t say I’m disappointed as both of these characters are peripheral compared to Portman’s and mostly represent psychological and sexual stress and/or influence on her.

Because this is a film largely about sex, it’s important that sexuality underlines virtually every moment of the film that has anything to do with Cassel and Kunis with Portman. All three actors excel at this and Mila Kunis has never been sexier than she is here.

And, uh… here.

Portman is kind of a wholesome girl. That she was cast as Nina makes perfect sense because of that wholesome quality. She doesn’t exude sex like Scarlett Johannsen, say. Nor, for that matter, like Mila Kunis does. The audience must believe in a somewhat untamed version of Nina Sayers and this might have been the trickiest part of Portman’s performance. If you’re used to that side of her, you will be pleasantly surprised by Black Swan.

The rest of us have seen Closer, though.

Just for fun, Winona Ryder unexpectedly shows up in this for a little while. I was surprised, man. Why doesn’t she do a full-on role anymore? Like last year’s Star Trek she’s almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-her here. Odd.

Anyway, I obviously enjoyed the film. If you haven’t seen it, you’re probably wondering whether or not she’s just crazy or is she really turning into a bird or something. Well, have you ever seen a movie before? If you fancy yourself a scholar of any sort, go ye to the works of Edgar Allen Poe and see an example of “supernatural fiction” where the supernatural may be perfectly explainable in psychological terms. Key words: may be. Black Swan isn’t very subtle.

But that’s okay! Sometimes subtlety is overrated and overused. This movie isn’t afraid to straight up fuck with you and then refuse to apologize if you got taken in. I’m sure there are people out there who were disappointed by this or something. Those people suck.

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