Movie News

Massawyrm calls BLACK SWAN an incredible work of damaged beauty

Published at: Dec. 3, 2010, 7:21 p.m. CST by merrick


Hola all. Massawyrm here. There is no doubt in my mind that BLACK SWAN is one of the very best films of the year. It will proudly sit atop a number of best of the year lists and reap numerous critic awards and stride proudly into Oscar season with an armload of trophies. And it will have earned every single one. This is an incredible film. Dark, masochistic, sexual, and most importantly, existential. It is everything Darren Aronofsky has been trying for since he first exploded on the scene with PI, but has always fallen short of (even when the film is incredibly good); everything he does well he shows us here to have mastered. And, having assembled a perfect cast, he goes on to make his masterpiece. The first thing that strikes you about BLACK SWAN is that there is something almost exploitive at times about the film’s sexuality; probing uncomfortable depths while still somehow elegantly straddling the line between the tasteful and the tawdry. While shots linger on panty-clad ass and follow exploring hands across taut flesh, Aronofsky always exercises enough restraint to keep the sexual energy high without actually showing you a goddamned thing. Neither of the leads in this film would be breaking new ground by bearing skin, and yet nary a nipple nor an ass cheek is to be seen anywhere in it. He makes the lurid artistic; he makes it erotic without it ever feeling like over produced softcore. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t bother keeping track of nudity – or mentioning it, for that matter – but what Aronofsky does here is make one of the best films about a woman protagonist in years, without ever sacrificing the femininity of his characters (as is often the case when male directors make films about women but end up writing them as men with girl parts). But then it occasionally feels like he is about to objectify them. And yet, that becomes the point. He never has to titillate you with nudity; he lets his actresses seduce you with their eyes and their (still somewhat clothed) bodies – one of the very things Natalie Portman’s Nina Sayers is aiming for herself. Sayers is a cold, closed off, naïve little girl, trapped in the body of a 28 year old woman who is slowly running out of time on her dream. When the featured ballerina in her company needs to be replaced, Nina is the obvious choice for the role of the Swan Queen. But she lacks the passion needed for the role of her dark alternate, the Black Swan, and despite her talent finds a rival in the less skillful, but entirely uninhibited Lily (Mila Kunis.) Thus begins her exploration into herself to find her own soul. On the surface the film is a dark, brooding sister-piece to THE WRESTLER, illustrating the slow destruction of a woman’s body for the sake of beautiful motion. But underneath its sinister exterior, Aronofsky is really grappling with something more elemental; he’s trying to expose the beating, bloody heart of the artist. BLACK SWAN isn’t so much a film about obsession, jealousy and self-destruction as it about finding the dark places inside ourselves in order to touch an unrefined piece of the universe as to bring it back and forge it into art. Nina wants desperately to be an artist, but she simply doesn’t know how to be one. Art isn’t about precision; it is about emotion. And that theme permeates even the smallest details of the film. This isn’t just about the physical breakdown of a ballerina; it is about the mental and spiritual abuse one performs on oneself being an artist. That journey is chronicled in dramatic, pained and even bloody detail throughout every beautifully uncomfortable moment of this film. To say that this is Natalie Portman’s greatest performance is to do it disservice. While she has shown immense promise since we first laid eyes on her at the age of 13, she’s never quite had a role so primal as to allow her to dig this deep. This is the role of a lifetime, that once in a career gift that you grab onto with both hands. Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley stole my heart in NEVER LET ME GO, but this goes well beyond where those two were allowed to and not only proves to be the best female performance of the year, but quite possibly the very best performance, period. Portman has officially left behind her previous career and stepped gloriously into the realm of legend. Much like Nina sought for herself, Portman tapped into whatever it is that lay deep within her and brought back art – perfection. She is transcendent and elevates the film to greatness. There is little else to say about this film except to demand that you see it immediately. It is an incredible work of damaged beauty; a soulful, deep meditation on the very essence of art and its relationship to the artist. This film will be taught in film schools ten years from now and for good reason. See it. Now.
Until next time friends, Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback

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  • Dec. 3, 2010, 7:26 p.m. CST

    First

    by Amfpsych

    I'm a dick

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 7:52 p.m. CST

    ballet dancers scare me

    by DioxholsterImperium

    they are the equivalent of clowns. freaks

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 7:56 p.m. CST

    Wow, Massa.

    by blackwood

    I love when a film is so good it elevates how you talk about it. Great review.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 7:01 p.m. CST

    The word of the day is tribbing

    by orange84

    Thank you Riley Martin.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 8:11 p.m. CST

    its one thing to spam

    by DioxholsterImperium

    but to double post it is just offensive.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 8:19 p.m. CST

    Kunis and Portman sip from furry cup or gtfo

    by JohnWayneWasGay

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 8:22 p.m. CST

    ASS TO ASS!!

    by F-18

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 7:17 p.m. CST

    Seconded, Blackwood

    by ArcherNX01

    This was really well done, Massa.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 8:38 p.m. CST

    LOL Mr Spork

    by Sardonic

    I'm pretty sure that was the first thing that came to every dude's mind once they heard that Aronofsky was making a movie with a lesbian scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 8:52 p.m. CST

    Portman and Kunis Lesbian Goodness

    by stylin0619

    Be! Excited! Be Be Excited!!

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 8:55 p.m. CST

    I always knew you were gay

    by KING_TROLL_VIII

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 8:56 p.m. CST

    didn't realize it was only opening in limited today

    by Gungan Slayer

    Was looking forward to watching this movie this weekend until I realized it was only a limited release. Now I've got to wait till it expands.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 9:02 p.m. CST

    So does she literally turn into a black swan then?

    by Mike_D

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 9:13 p.m. CST

    For the role of the Black Swan

    by Colonel Activity

    they should have cast Shaquille O'Neal as KAZAAM! the rapping genie.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 9:26 p.m. CST

    What's his face on this site made it sound terrible.

    by JuanSanchez

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 9:28 p.m. CST

    i dont get u guys

    by GenerationMTV

    u bash dumb films and Bay for treating women like sex objects yet here we have a smart film from celebrated indie director and u guys only care about a lesbian kiss like a bunch of hound dogs, ignoring what that kiss even means in the context of the film. u guys sounds like the Bay fans u dispise (imagine us going 'yea screw the talking scenes i just wanna see Splosions!')?

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 9:47 p.m. CST

    I don't dislike bays films because of his mysogeny

    by smatt584

    I dislike them because they're stupid, poorly written bullshit parading as a story with t&a and explosions where plot should be. The random scattered ass in Bays movies, much like the special effects are the ONLY two good aspects of any of his movies. There simply is not enough cleavage and fire to make a MB movie good and that is the true reason that mMichael Bay will always be considered the biggest-budgeted hack in all of Hollywood. If I want wanton destruction without meaningful context, I'll watch Jackass or maybe just a destruction derby. If I want hot girls to turn me on, I'll watch porn. Michael Bay doesn't satisfy either desire.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 8:53 p.m. CST

    smatt584

    by dukeroberts

    You hit the nail right on the head.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 10:04 p.m. CST

    Aronofsky's best. Portman's best by far.

    by Rindain

    Just saw it. Black Swan is a tour de force of filmmaking, a visceral experience that left me shaking. My favorite by Aronofsky so far. Natalie Portman is not Natalie Portman in this movie. I really forgot it was her a few minutes into the film - that's how fucking good she is in this. If she doesn't win for Best Actress then, well, the Academy sucks even more than usual. :) And she's hotter than she's ever been. The entire thing is just incredible. Great performances all around. And the ffects work gave me chills. When she spreads her swan wings towards the end...holy shit. See this ASAP. It deserves as much support as it can get.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 9:10 p.m. CST

    Aronofosky needs to learn some subtlety

    by starlesswinter7

    The film was good, and I certainly think Aronofsky is a talented and ambitious guy, but really - the symbolism in this film is soooo obvious and in-your-face.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 10:21 p.m. CST

    Aronofsky needs to learn some subtlety

    by starlesswinter7

    The film was good, and I certainly think Aronofsky is a talented and ambitious guy, but really - the symbolism in this film is sooo over the top and in-your-face that things become a bit ridiculous.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 10:24 p.m. CST

    AMAZING film

    by Right Bastard

    best of the year<p> .<p> <p> Makes "Social Network" look like a joke by comparison. Damn, I'm glad there are people out there like Aronofsky, making incredible and challenging art.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 10:25 p.m. CST

    No nipples?

    by SmokingRobot

    I'm out. This is not the time for subtlety.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 9:17 p.m. CST

    believe it or not....

    by chainsaw_shawn

    i could care less about lesbianism, its been done to death...

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 10:27 p.m. CST

    Does this mean Aronofsky is a lock-on for Heath Ledger biopic?

    by onezeroone

    Reading the review just made me realize how heartbreakingly beautiful a Heath Ledger biopic would be and how DA could nail it.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 11:02 p.m. CST

    Who here is down on Bay for objectification?

    by JuanSanchez

    That's the least of his problems.

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 11:32 p.m. CST

    No nudity = FFFFUUUUUUUUCCKKKK!!!!!!!

    by Simpsonian

  • Dec. 3, 2010, 10:33 p.m. CST

    No actual nudity = No sale

    by JediTray

    I'll catch a torrent of it later then. Glad I didn't waste my money.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 5:32 a.m. CST

    How bloody depressing

    by Cat_Corporation

    Potential film of the year, incredible role and performance by an actress and all most of you care about is whether you get to ogle her tits or not. Here's an idea, why don't you stick to porn and leave the real films to the rest of us. At least then you'll never be disappointed.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 6:22 a.m. CST

    Yes, but do they get their tits out or not?

    by BiggusDickus

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 6:26 a.m. CST

    Regarding the plot though...

    by Yeti

    All About Eve or Fight Club?

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 6:50 a.m. CST

    I think we can all agree...

    by KubricksBellEnd

    Titties are great. 'Nuff said...

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 7:53 a.m. CST

    If I were an Oscar voter, I would never vote for an actor

    by Dislodged

    who isn't willing to show her goodies on screen. To be a great actor you have to be willing to reveal yourself completely. Anne Hathaway doesn't flinch at the prospect of nudity but Portman & Kunis are such prudish queens? Wake up and deal with the fact that perverts exist in the world and your industry ladies - cough, cough, Polanski, Woody Allen - cough. Accept it. The human body is beautiful and is art.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 9:02 a.m. CST

    Sooo... does this redeem her for Phantom Menace?

    by dasaroo

    ... cause she might have double-dosed on the Zoloft before she filmed that. THAT SAID.. she is a gorgeous girl. I am ashamed to say she gave me a boner the first time I saw her in LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, in those little shorts she was wearing.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 9:29 a.m. CST

    Natalie Portman's not that great

    by MST3KPIMP

    she just is'nt

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 9:41 a.m. CST

    Allow Me To Educate You Assholes...

    by WalterWhite

    1) No. There's no actual nudity, but what you get here is arguably better than most nude scenes. The masturbation/lesbian scenes are way hotter than any little nip-slip you're all mentally masturbating over. Add to that hard nipples constantly poking through the thinnest fabric imaginable-- Yeah. None of you will be disappointed. In fact, you'll all be positively thrilled with what this movie is offering up. 2) No. This movie is NOT subtle. It's not supposed to be, so shut the fuck up about it. I read that fuck Copernicus's review, I've paid my dues to that retarded argument. It doesn't hold up. It's supposed to be operatic, it's supposed to mirror the ballet. If you don't "get it" while you're watching, you're not watching closely enough. The lack of subtlety makes for some of the most jaw dropping and bombastic sequences I've seen on film in a very long time. I'll go see Never Let Me Go if I want subtlety-- Subtlety is simply not the point of Black Swan.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 1:56 p.m. CST

    Well, I WOULD see it immediately ...

    by jmac4ever

    ...except there doesn't seem to be anything resembling a WIDE release for the movie in our future at all. It just seems to get a little less limited with each week. Even the wider release set for the 17th isn't anywhere close. Kind of nuts for a movie that's supposed to be one of the best of the year.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 4:20 p.m. CST

    So Portman can goof off now in Your Highness

    by CreasyBear

    with no fear of career damage? Good to hear.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 3:42 p.m. CST

    Awwwww!!! No boobies??

    by 3D-Man

    Me am sooooo sad. Me likey boobies.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 5:46 p.m. CST

    NOTHING will make up for PHANTOM MENACE

    by 3D-Man

    That scene where she kneels in front of Boss Nass and says "I beg for your help" or whatevers is the worst scene in the history of cinema.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 6:12 p.m. CST

    "nary a nipple"!??! aw. buzz killed!

    by Super Rabbi

    Kidding, can't wait to see this!

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 8:40 p.m. CST

    anyone who just cares about the kiss

    by GenerationMTV

    or nudity...is an idiot who isnt smart enough for this film anyway

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 10:25 p.m. CST

    Considering Natalie has the chest of a twelve-year-old boy...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...why would anyone WANT to see her topless? Nat's a doll, but she ain't exactly stacked.

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 11:24 p.m. CST

    saw it tonight

    by mrsheldrake

    thinking about this...my aesthetic upbringing centered around two places: the Thalia, for film and State Theater, for NYCB and Balanchine. Seeing all those backstage venues that I used to walk freely and now haven't been in since maybe 1987, was overwhelming...have to think about this. Dana Steven's review in Slate misses the point of the movie by a country mile. Good for Massawyrm for getting it. More to say but want to digest a bit, and probably will see this again...and Natalie Portman's performance, and the Dance Mom and Upper West Side Apartment (the 103rd Street stop on the subway, the neighborhood Burroughs called the Ghost of Junk), all rang very true. need to digest this a bit...a movie about being trapped in your own head. How could I help but identify :-)

  • Dec. 4, 2010, 11:38 p.m. CST

    Subtlety

    by DBCOOPER

    Fuck Subtlety, it's overrated. It's simply a directors choice, just as going over the top is a director's choice. Not every director or story needs to be told subtely, especially if we're talking about an opera-esque, tragic story about insanity. More directors need to be swinging for the fences like Aronofsky, not less.

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 2:56 a.m. CST

    NATALIE PORTMAN

    by frank cotton

    what more is there to say...

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 6:04 a.m. CST

    Yawn

    by BrooklynBred

    This movie looks gayer than a Nicky-Minaj fan.

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 6:07 a.m. CST

    Alot of the guys posting on here

    by BrooklynBred

    Need to get a beer in one hand. Some boobs in the other and remember what being a MAN is all about! Sheesh! All these fruity posts by guys is sad!

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 7:37 a.m. CST

    KUNIS v. PORTMAN pussy battle

    by Squidgy_Faced_Vigilante

    I saw this last night, and trust me that I wanted to take my dick out right then and there in the theater and jerk it when Kunis went down on Portman. There is NO NUDITY in this, but these two are hot as hell, and there is a TON of pussy-grabbing going on throughout the movie, more than I have ever seen. Also, the part where Portman is masturbating on the bed is totally hot as well. If you are wanting to see this ONLY for KUNIS v. PORTMAN sex, u will definitely NOT be disappointed. IT IS HOT, KUNIS wins and is just a little tiny hot fuck all-around. She plays the part perfectly and I can totally see why everyone she came in contact with wanted a piece of that ass. FINE AS FUCK ALL. Now, in regard to the actual movie, it is fabulous and a must-see just for the acting and themes, simply great work. GO SEE IT, but sit in a dimly-lit area for when u start touching urself! That is all.

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 10:26 a.m. CST

    Brooklynbred: I'm gonna get off this toilet and

    by UltraTron

    grab me some Beertits(tm)! Nothing starts a day better than Beertits(tm). Now where did I put my Potpussy(tm)?

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 10:59 a.m. CST

    Wow... Great review massa. Can't wait to see this

    by Nomoredirtyanything

    Aranofsky is a fucking GOD! <p> Bow before him infidels and to his detractors.... for your ignorance you shall burn in the eternal hellfires reserved for the truly stupid.

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 9:54 a.m. CST

    also... ASS TO ASS

    by Nomoredirtyanything

    fuckin wow..... Requiem For A Dream is the 2nd most depressing film of my life.... <p> Bad Boy Bubby takes the cake. It is both hilarious and horrifying.... like watching Midgets getting culled...

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 11:06 a.m. CST

    WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THIS SITE!!!!

    by Nomoredirtyanything

    Is this post gonna be first, second, or fuckin 300th!!!! <p> Now sign my fuckin poster Harry!

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 11:55 a.m. CST

    §1qo90p-=[

    by hidden_shallows

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 12:03 p.m. CST

    THAT'S A PRETTY STRONG ENDORSEMENT, MASSA

    by BringingSexyBack

    May have to check this out ...

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 12:19 p.m. CST

    when a reviewer says you must go see a movie

    by animas

    they have crossed the line of ethics into the realm of MARKETING. fuck you. I refuse to see it now.

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 2:26 p.m. CST

    mea culpa

    by mrsheldrake

    I saw MESSRINE parts 1 and 2 at Angelika withinthe last 60 days and didn't connect until now that was THE Vincent Cassel who played the ballet master. Suckah has range.

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 1:46 p.m. CST

    Yeah ultra Tom!

    by BrooklynBred

    A guy after my own heart!

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 3:35 p.m. CST

    "Art isn’t about precision; it is about emotion."

    by AsimovLives

    Actually, art is about both. If oen unsettles the ballance then you get soemthing that is not art. Mostly, you get shit instead. i know it's common among americans today to rage about teh wonders of unchekec emotionalisms, as if that shit is a virtue in itself. It's not. It's a trap. It's both a lie and it's all bullshit. You canot work a work of art without precision. Art, true art is both of the mind and the heart to find the soul. You can't find the soul just with emotions. That way lies self-indulgence and crap.

  • Dec. 5, 2010, 11:31 p.m. CST

    It's really good, you should see it.

    by Gozu

    Also, it was almost completely sold out Friday in NYC. We do have a lot of critics here though.

  • Dec. 6, 2010, 5:09 a.m. CST

    BrainDrain

    by AsimovLives

    But i don't mistake that shit for a good movie, which makes all the difference.

  • Dec. 6, 2010, 5:15 a.m. CST

    Gozu

    by AsimovLives

    I'll always trust the opinion of anybody who choses to call himself Gozu in a movie forum. Fuck if that movie (Gozu) is not great!

  • Dec. 6, 2010, 12:29 p.m. CST

    Gozo

    by DeadPanWalking

    I went last night and it was still sold out in Union Square with people standing in line to get in.