Black Swan
4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Darren Aronofsky
scr Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin
prd Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Brian Oliver
with Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied, Ksenia Solo, Kristina Anapau, Janet Montgomery, Sebastian Stan, Toby Hemingway, Sergio Torrado
release US 3.Dec.10, UK 11.Feb.11
10/US Fox 1h43
Black Swan
Are you my friend? Kunis and Portman

cassel hershey ryder

london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Black Swan Aronofsky takes his usual bravura cinematic approach to this harrowing psychological thriller set in a New York ballet company. Not only is it unlike any film we've ever seen, but it leaves us shaken by its boldly evocative themes.

In a noted ballet company, Nina (Portman) is a rising star who's up for the lead in a new production of Swan Lake. She's fiercely aware of the fact that the previous lead ballerina (Ryder) has been casually discarded while younger newcomer Lilly (Kunis) is already threatening Nina's position. Or is Nina just being paranoid? As opening night approaches, Nina begins to clash with everyone around her, from Lilly to her mercurial director (Cassel) and domineering mother (Hershey). And reality starts slipping out of her grasp.

As with The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky takes us deep into the mind of the central character. We experience Nina's crippling self-doubt in ways that are unnerving and sometimes horrifying. As she prepares for her starring debut, her perception spirals wildly out of control, and in Aronofsky's hands the result is thrilling cinema that has us gasping at the audacity of it all. The way he lyrically blends the ballet with the backstage drama is literally breathtaking, weaving Clint Mansell's original music with the classic Tchaikovsky score.

But is Nina paranoid, or is Lilly really trying to steal her position? This blurred question allows Portman and Kunis to skilfully bring the script's detailed layers onto the screen (although Aronofsky helps them with insinuating sound and visual trickery). Meanwhile, Cassel delivers another of his fearlessly complex performances, and Hershey and Ryder are terrific as rather unstable older divas.

This is a haunting, intimate film that blends fantasy and reality to cleverly explore how it must feel to rise to a level of celebrity that most could only dream of. Watching Nina let go of her innocence is truly terrifying, leading to an intense final act that will leave audiences shattered (and either loving or hating the film). In the end, it's a provocative, powerful story about how you might have to completely lose yourself if you want to be a star.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 22.Oct.10 lff

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