Rewatched May 14, 2011
Michael Mackenzie’s review:
As Mike Sutton says in his review of BLACK SWAN at homecinema.thedigitalfix.com/content/id/73892/black-swan.html, Darren Aronofsky's latest movie is essentially "high-trash melodrama". It's frequently over the top and absurd, and revels in all sorts of daft clichés about mental illness - particularly the A/B white/black personality split from which its heroine suffers... and yet despite all this it's a dazzling, visceral piece of work if you accept it on its own terms. I don't personally think Natalie Portman deserves quite the degree of plauditry she's received for the role (as I've mentioned on a few occasions now, I felt that her fellow BAFTA nominee Noomi Rapace wiped the floor with her as Lisbeth Salander in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and as far as I'm concerned the award went to the wrong actress), but the shrill hysteria that infuses her performance is entirely suited to the overall mood of the film and calls to mind Catherine Deneuve in Polanski's REPULSION.
REPULSION, in fact, is probably the film from which BLACK SWAN draws most influence (except, of course, for SHOWGIRLS) in its portrait of a deeply disturbed young woman slowly unravelling. A lot of people, among them Mark Kermode, have loudly proclaimed Aronofsky to have been borrowing wholesale from Dario Argento, and while the ballet setting and focus on a wide-eyed ingénue dancer (as well as some of the colour choices during the climax) do call to mind SUSPIRIA, I do think the similarities have been overplayed to a certain extent. Indeed, if any Argento film informs BLACK SWAN to any great extent (and I have to believe that Aronofsky was indeed drawing on the maestro's work, at least subconsciously), it's OPERA, with Portman taking on the Cristina Marsillach role (complete with domineering mother figure) and Vincent Cassel in Ian Charleson's part.
Regardless of the influences it wears so openly, though, BLACK SWAN does manage to feel cohesive and manages to forge its own identity despite not really bringing anything new to the table. I know a few people who outright loathe the film for its over the top and absurd nature, and others who think it's a load of pretentious wank masquerading as high-brow in order to avoid admitting that it's basically a B-horror movie with pretensions above its station. I see their point but I don't really agree with them: once I saw BLACK SWAN for what it is - an old-fashioned pulp horror movie packaged as high art - I got completely on board with its merging of high art and exploitation.