2010 // USA // Darren Aronofsky // November 19, 2010 // Theatrical Print (Hi-Pointe Theater)
With the engaging but frustrating Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky again expands the range of his generic dabblings, this time to encompass backstage melodrama, psychological thriller, anatomical horror, and a bit of unexpectedly vicious camp. Thematically, however, the director's attention remains fixed on obsession and the annihilation of the self. Indeed, Black Swan plays quite unambiguously as a companion to The Wrestler, as shamelessly operatic in its sensibility as Aronofsky's previous film was tattered and doleful. Ambitious, high-strung ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) dreams of dancing the lead in Swan Lake ("Done to death, I know," concedes her impresario), but is haunted by strange visions and a sultry rival (Mila Kunis). Portman is flawlessly cast and delivers one of her finest performances in a challenging, rather unsympathetic role. The fingerprints of Polanski, De Palma, Cronenberg, and many other filmmakers are conspicuous, but where Aronofsky falters is not in amalgamating his myriad influences but in controlling the film's tone. Black Swan veers from the grave to the ludicrous so fast that it disorients, while Clint Mansell's Tchaikovsky-indebted score thunders away. The director's often delicate observation of behavior is backgrounded in favor of creepshow spectacle, and the result is a genuine B-picture (a sort of werewolf picture, specifically). Aronofsky's style remains seductive, but Black Swan is his least daring work to date.