Black Swan: New Release of the Week

Black Swan (Fox)

Black Swan is a delirious, practically giddy thriller that flirts with the metaphysical even while it relentlessly ratchets up its prime directive, which is to be a nonstop audience stress test,” wrote MSN critic Glenn Kenny when the film opened in 2010.

Black Swan in black

It quickly became a polarizing film for film critics, many embracing the Red Shoes meets Repulsion psychological portrait of neurosis and obsession in a meek, repressed young woman (Natalie Portman) who still has little girl prima ballerina dreams, others critical of the melodrama, hysteria and blunt metaphors (“high-grade hokum,” as one critic called it). The mix of culture and kinky psychodrama brought in audiences and earned Natalie Portman an Academy Award for her lead performance as woman/child still living under the suffocating attentions of her mother (Barbara Hershey), one of the Oscar nominations it earned in all.

Nina (Portman), a longtime member of the New York City Ballet company, begins her spiral in obsession, hallucination and sexual awakening (despite her protestations, she’s almost surely still a virgin) when she’s cast to play the twin roles of the White Swan and the Black Swan in a new production and the perfectionist is challenged to drop her control and let her passions pour out. Vincent Cassel plays the company director who uses seduction as a tool to draw out his dancers (or maybe he’s just an oily manipulator) and Mila Kunis is the newest dancer, a free spirit whose passion makes up for her technical limitations. Nina starts to see paranoid plots and dark doppelgangers in every mirror (and there are mirrors everywhere, not to admire oneself but to reveal flaws and constantly judge one’s own performance) and the camera smears identities until we no longer know what’s real and what’s in her mind.

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Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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