It's not often that a film can fill you completely with jitters and endorphins from beginning to end. It's difficult for a motion picture to perfectly envelope the audience member's heart, swaying them to each beat and carrying them from one breathtaking scene to the next. This is a rare occurrence, and one that we should embrace so firmly that our tongues get tired from championing them. One that we should write about, sing about, even dance about. BLACK SWAN is that kind of movie.
Many of us were lucky to catch it at this year's Austin Film Festival. Every one of the Paramount Theatre's 1200+ seats were filled that night, and we all experienced a magical movie. BLACK SWAN is a miracle. And the Ritz is lucky to be able to reproduce that enchantment, starting next Friday, December 10.
We know director Darren Aronofsky is a very talented guy. His freshman effort PI captures a freakish delirium with the utmost skill, and is one of contemporary independent cinema's greatest achievements. His REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and THE FOUNTAIN are modern cult classics. And 2008 brought us the return of Mickey Rourke with THE WRESTLER, the tearjerker for men that showed Aronofsky's mature side. All of these films build up to BLACK SWAN, the director's most mature and compelling work to date.
In BLACK SWAN, Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a tormented and frigid young ballerina who lands the role of her dreams - the Swan Queen in a New York City Ballet production of Swan Lake. This is a dual role, incorporating the virginal "White Swan" and the sensual "Black Swan" in one dynamic performance.
Yet her passionless and innocent style jeopardizes her debut as the company's new star; while she is well-suited for the White Swan character, she lacks the raw sexual power and charisma to perform the more dangerous Black Swan role so crucial in the production. From this fundamental struggle within herself, Nina falls into a spell of ghastly hallucinations and dreams.
Her new rival Lily, played here by the firecracker Mila Kunis, is an immediate threat, presenting the dangerous and carnal qualities that Nina lacks. Their competing egos and ambitions clash as Nina slips deeper into the horrible nightmare that ultimately engulfs her. Kunis was awarded the Mastroianni Prize at the Venice Film Festival (best emerging actor) for her performance here as the bodily young dancer, and will surely be considered for more awards as the season continues.
Aronofsky's storytelling here is excellent, and the wedding of psycho-sexual thriller, horror, musical, and ballet elements are highly potent. It is a merging of genres and of styles that feels completely fresh, and that is thanks to the expert direction from Aronofsky and the brilliant acting chops of Portman, Kunis, and the ballet director, French heartthrob Vincent Cassel.
Inspired in part by masterpieces like ALL ABOUT EVE, REPULSION, THE TENANT, and some of David Cronenberg's early films, BLACK SWAN is in the company of giants. It holds its own in this world, proving that Aronofsky is one of our most masterly filmmakers. This movie is absolutely not to be missed, or even seen only once. And you must see it in the dark, with a crowd of avid filmgoers on the edges of their seats, unable to guess what will happen next.
The brilliant choreography and beautiful, dreamy moments will have you dancing through your nightmares for weeks. Do not miss this film's run at the Alamo Ritz this Holiday Season.
BLACK SWAN opens Friday, December 10, at the Ritz.