First reviews for BLACK SWAN hit; Compared to films like THE RED SHOES and REPULSION

Joshua Brunsting

by: Joshua Brunsting
September 1st, 2010

Black Swan

Well, the Venice Film Festival is now officially underway, and along with the start of this year’s festival, that means that its opening film, Darren Aronofsky’s BLACK SWAN, has premiered, and boy has it hit hard.

Drawing comparisons to great films like the classic trio of Roman Polanski thrillers, THE TENANT, REPULSION (which may be the closest thing we have to it) and ROSEMARY’S BABY, and the greatest ballet film ever made, THE RED SHOES, we have our first reviews of the film, and while they aren’t all over the moon, the buzz is definitely at a fever pitch.

Check out the first slew of reviews, after the break.

Leading the pro-BLACK SWAN bandwagon is Obsessed With Film’s Robert Beams, who calls the film “a perfect film” and one “that blends THE RED SHOES with ANTICHRIST, via Cronenberg.”  He also has high hopes for the film with regards to its Oscar potential, calling the film Aronofsky’s “first masterpiece” and calling star Natalie Portman a lock for an Oscar nomination, and the favorite for the Best Actress award.

Also ringing the Oscar bell for the film is Mike Goodridge at Screen International, who says that “if the film is ultimately too unsettling to snag main prizes, it has at least one nomination in the bag for lead actress Natalie Portman who gives one of ‘those’ performances.” Personally, having read the screenplay, I can directly speak to the fact that the film may be a little too dark, and too confrontational (the film is essential a Roman Polanski, REPULSION, style take on THE RED SHOES, and should be thought of as such) for a win at Best Picture, no matter how good the film truly is, but these reviews do have me hoping that Portman can snag the award, because this seems to be a type of performance that the Academy loves to give a nod to.  Also, I see a nomination for Aronofsky himself as well.

The always fun to read Guy Lodge at InContention also loved the film, calling it a “contemporary fairy tale of sorts,” one that happens to also be a “taut, witty and wickedly kinky thriller that pulls off the tricky double-bluff of following precisely the narrative course one has mapped out for it.” Color me excited.

However, not everyone was over the moon for it.  Kirk Honeycutt at THR is not quite a fan of the film, noting that it is “an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what’s so good about it. You might howl at the sheer audacity of mixing mental illness with the body-fatiguing, mind-numbing rigors of ballet, but its lurid imagery and a hellcat competition between two rival dancers is pretty irresistible.” This is the aspect of the film that I think may keep it out of the true race for a Best Picture win.

Personally, while everything that I’ve seen, and read, from the film points at a great cinematic achievement, yet again, for Aronofsky, it may also be his most extreme or most genre type piece.  It seems to be a very taut and well made film, but my fears for its Oscar hopes come in the fact that it is basically a David Cronenberg style take on a ballet film.  Take something like VIDEODROME, or its closest non-ballet relative, the Marina de Van film, IN MY SKIN, and toss in a ballet based story, and you have BLACK SWAN.  I’m not saying the film will be bad, actually, I think it may very well be the best film we get this entire year, but it’s not one that will play to the Academy as say,  NEVER LET ME GO or TREE OF LIFE, if we get it this year.

However, when taking into account these rave reviews, and more from the likes of Variety and IndieWire, I can’t help but think we’ll be talking about BLACK SWAN for some time to come.

What do you think?

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  • Will Schiff

    Because I’m going to trust a review written by a guy named “Kirk Honeycutt.”

  • Josh Brunsting

    Hahaha, I agree with you 100%. You can never trust that guy.

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