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I had the craziest dream last night. I was dancing the white swan.
January 8, 2011 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan has entered a long line of ballet movies to critical acclaim, Golden Globe nominations and Oscar buzz. But what do ballerinas think of it?
posted by Artw (121 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
waaaaaaaah, her technique wasn't perfect, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah the director made directorial decisions, waaaaaaaaah
posted by nathancaswell at 9:21 AM on January 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is Black Swan any more inaccurate with regard to ballet than lawyer movies are to lawyering or cop movies are to police work - or even any more inaccurate than movies about filmmaking or theater are to their respective professions? I highly doubt it.

They should've shown these people Suspiria instead.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:23 AM on January 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


I read this earlier - wow defensive much?
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 AM on January 8, 2011


Also the comparison of the movie to Rosemary's Baby is perfect, I kept thinking the movie felt like a 70s horror-melodrama, like Carrie or What Ever Happened To Baby Jane.
posted by The Whelk at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


See also My Flowchart Explains the Trashy Greatness of Black Swan.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


The TLDR version: don't worry about the ballet – go for the great lesbian action and the horror
posted by Slothrup at 9:25 AM on January 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also the comparison of the movie to Rosemary's Baby is perfect, I kept thinking the movie felt like a 70s horror-melodrama, like Carrie or What Ever Happened To Baby Jane.

Agreed about Rosemary's Baby but it reminded me most of Repulsion. Very Polanski.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you think they sound defensive, listen to who called in to the Brian Lehrer Show
posted by arveale at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2011


From the last link:
Natalie Portman needs to work on her port de bras. I really have a problem with this film using an actress, not a dancer, to play Nina: the director seems to think that, in a few months, you can learn a profession that it takes years just to understand, let alone be good at. And in the film, Nina is supposed to be awesome.
As opposed to acting, which and good dancer can pick up in a couple of months.

It's a bit silly to give a rat's ass what ballerinas think about the movie. This is like wondering what doctors think of "House," or boxers think of "Rocky," or computer geeks think of "Hackers," or high school wrestlers think of "Vision Quest," or porn actresses think of "Boogie Nights." You might as well ask NASCAR drivers what they think of "Black Swan." It's about as valid.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:27 AM on January 8, 2011 [21 favorites]


There are spoilers in that ballerina interview. That should probably go without saying, but the last guy interviewed spoils a pretty key scene and I would have been a little miffed to have read it before seeing the movie.

The movie was great. It's funny to me that people are justifying its excesses by saying that it's a horror movie. Why do you need to put it in a genre in order to explain its artistic choices? Why would that help?
posted by painquale at 9:27 AM on January 8, 2011


Remember people, Natalie Portman's not eating for two now. Leave natalie alone!
posted by cjorgensen at 9:28 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


portraying ballet as one great "sadomasochistic trip".

I had an interesting conversation with a dancer friend about how the standards for ballet keep rising - more extension, more precision, more extreme poses - no one in the 1900 would demand a "Banana foot" .
posted by The Whelk at 9:30 AM on January 8, 2011


I would also say that Black Swan's campy/trashy nature is why it's worth watching. God protect us from serious, polite, well-mannered movies.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:30 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, I somehow went in not knowing that Natalie Portman was in it and I didn't recognize her (I'm really bad with faces). Throughout the whole movie I was incredulous and kept thinking, jeez, that dancer they found can really act. She's gonna become a star!
posted by painquale at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Considering that ballet was once called camp about love a well-mannered ballet movie would miss the point. High Art and High Camp are sisters.
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Banana foot"

GAHHHH
posted by The Devil Tesla at 9:34 AM on January 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Considering that ballet was once called camp about love a well-mannered ballet movie would miss the point. High Art and High Camp are sisters.

I actually read a review where the critic back-handedly praised Black Swan as high-class Dario Argento, while also wishing that someone like Jane Campion had made a more "mature" version of the same story. Blechh.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:37 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


People like that think opera is too loud. I bet they shit back issues of the New Yorker.
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


...the Guardian invited five of the biggest names in British ballet to an advance screening.
I wonder what the viewing conditions were like, because a few of these criticisms read as if the "big names" weren't paying attention, quite.

Criticizing the dancing in the movie makes perfect sense. But to say "the real world of ballet isn't that competitive, dancers aren't that crazy and paranoid" is criticizing the trees while missing the forest, I think.

Metafilter doesn't have a way of doing spoiler blackout text, does it?
posted by Western Infidels at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2011


Heh. Dario Argento is *exactly* what I was thinking of while watching it.
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha. And now I'm reminded of how my (retired opera singer) mom's favorite movie was Mommy Dearest.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:39 AM on January 8, 2011


Natalie Portman? Meh. Never liked her much.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]



Ha. And now I'm reminded of how my (retired opera singer) mom's favorite movie was Mommy Dearest.


Ha. You know if "WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SWEET GIRL" becomes the new "CHRISTINA BRING ME THE AXE" I wouldn't mind a whit.
posted by The Whelk at 9:43 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Natalie Portman? Meh. Never liked her much.

Me neither, usually, but I think Black Swan played to her strengths. She's a very wooden, mannered performer, but that suited her character, as well as her character's later breakdown.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:43 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting. Black Swan won't be out here for a few months but already from the trailer I have a sinking feeling that I'll be MST3K-ing things. Exquisitely applied black hand make-up?! That shit would last all of 5 seconds before it would be all over your partner & the extraordinarily expensive costumes.
posted by romakimmy at 9:44 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't quite understand why people are trashing the dancers for being critical. That's exactly why you'd ask their opinion. Now some of them have a little trouble stepping outside their profession, but the better ones (Pancho) do not.

I think the mark of a good filmmaker is one who can take cinematic / dramatic shortcuts and still not lose the experts.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:45 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh god it just occurred to the me, the outfit at the end with the stunning eye makeup?

We're gonna have so many Black Swan drag queens soon. Not. Even. Funny.
posted by The Whelk at 9:45 AM on January 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Already done on 30 rock.
posted by Artw at 9:46 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Natalie Portman? Meh. Never liked her much.

Me neither, usually, but I think Black Swan played to her strengths. She's a very wooden, mannered performer, but that suited her character, as well as her character's later breakdown.

Obligatory Natalie raps link

I'm going to go against the grain here and say that I didn't think that much of her Black Swan performance. It's basically all little girl voice or looking a bit crazy. Not quite a regression to Queen Amidala but not great.

posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're gonna have so many Black Swan drag queens soon.

Tina Fey beat them to it. Already had an episode where Jenna and her boyfriend (who is a Jenna drag impersonator) do a joint costume of "two black swans." Jenna's boyfriend dresses as Natalie Portman in costume and Jenna (in black face) dresses as 1970s Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swan.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:49 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Natalie Portman? Meh. Never liked her much

I love her for this and only this.
posted by anniecat at 9:49 AM on January 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Swann.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:50 AM on January 8, 2011


Ok. Saw the film and now have heard from real ballet ladies. Now I have seen The Fighter and wait for some 10 or so professional boxers give their opinion of the film so I can decide what I ought to believe. And for True Grit--cowboys, anyone?
posted by Postroad at 9:51 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I actually really like that she basically goes crazy because she's in a Darren Aronofsky film and that's just what people do in Darren Aronofsky films, with very little other pretext given. But you couldn't exactly say it was a nuanced psychological study or anything.
posted by Artw at 9:53 AM on January 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also the comparison of the movie to Rosemary's Baby is perfect, I kept thinking the movie felt like a 70s horror-melodrama, like Carrie or What Ever Happened To Baby Jane.

When The Town came out I told a friend it was one part Heat, one part Friends of Eddie Coyle, and 5 parts water. Black Swan is three parts The Piano Teacher and two parts Repulsion, with dashes of All About Eve and The Red Shoes. It really has nothing original to say about anything, really.
posted by dobbs at 9:54 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Black Swan was a great movie. I'm not sure why the Guardian thought interviewing ballet dancers would offer insight into the film. Their opinions were interesting, but I don't think next week there will be actors being interviewed about ballet with the same expectations.

The only small issues I had with the film were the similarities it had with The Wrestler.
posted by notion at 9:55 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed Tron well enough but it doesn't really capture the reality of living inside a computer.
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on January 8, 2011 [48 favorites]


But you couldn't exactly say it was a nuanced psychological study or anything.

I don't know...I thought her toxic relationship with her mother said it all, especially in concert with the already extreme pressures of her professional career. Her mom made her a ticking bomb, with only slight stimuli needed to make her explode. To me, pretext enough.

Just as with The Wrestler, we're looking at performers who are already well into the terminal stage of their own self-destructive tendencies, so it's not a huge surprise when they essentially kill themselves by the end. It might be a consistent trope in Aronofsky's work, but I don't read it as a weakness.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:59 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think next week there will be actors being interviewed about ballet with the same expectations.

Just wait until my ballet version of Noises Off opens.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:01 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


It might be a consistent trope in Aronofsky's work, but I don't read it as a weakness.

Characters in Requiem for a Dream start off in decent enough shape.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:01 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's very similar to The Wrestler: First-person character study of an ambitious performer in a very competitive field who devotes his or her life to success, only to lose their humanity in the process. Quest for perfection, greatness, and the love of the crowd is successful, but ultimately destroys them, leaving the audience with the question, "Was it worth it?" I think Aranofsky should do that same movie a third time, only with another profession, and maybe two people. I'm thinking a political couple like the Clintons. He's running for governor (President is too big for the formula). Starring Forrest Whitaker and Tarji P. Henson.

And I don't really get that "He used horror movie tricks" is a valid criticism. He was using those tricks in the service of characterization instead of just shock and horror. Not that there wasn't enough shock and horror to go around, but there was more going on.

I just saw True Grit last night, which was great, and thought, "Damn, 2010 turned out to be a good year for movies!"
posted by vibrotronica at 10:11 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The best part? Vg gheaf bhg gung Yvyl vf npghnyyl Fnoé, fgvyy jenpxrq jvgu erterg sebz tvivat Nzvqnyn gung ZQZN ba Pbehfpnag.
posted by everichon at 10:15 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Characters in Requiem for a Dream start off in decent enough shape.

I think the only character in Requiem for a Dream who starts off in "decent enough shape" is Ellen Burstyn's. Which is probably why her fate is incomparably more of a kick in the emotional nuts than any of the other three ("ass-to-ass" notwithstanding).
posted by DaDaDaDave at 10:16 AM on January 8, 2011



But you couldn't exactly say it was a nuanced psychological study or anything.


The economy of the character details was great, like how a single shot of her breakfast with the old routine-shared joke "Pretty pink!" just like summed up 20 years of this kinda crap going on, or the very quick "doing it ...again."

Another view of the movie, think of it from another point of view.

"I was just trying to be helpful it's not my fault she's a twitchy weirdo with no friends who lives with her mom."
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seems to me the ballet professionals who were interviewed who trashed the movie are essentially mad that the part of Nina Sayers wasn't given to a professional dancer. Absurd.

However, if you are going to interview ballet professionals about a movie that features ballet, whether the movie's really "about" ballet or not, expecting them not to snark about the technique of the dancing is kind of pointless.
posted by blucevalo at 10:17 AM on January 8, 2011


cjorgensen: "It's a bit silly to give a rat's ass what ballerinas think about the movie. This is like wondering what doctors think of "House," or boxers think of "Rocky," or computer geeks think of "Hackers," or high school wrestlers think of "Vision Quest," or porn actresses think of "Boogie Nights." You might as well ask NASCAR drivers what they think of "Black Swan." It's about as valid."

I haven't read the opinions of ballerinas (I heard there were spoilers and I haven't seen the movie yet), but I think it's absolutely interesting to hear from Real X's in Movies About X's. In fact, I absolutely want to know what members of certain various fields think about very public, highly influential, fantasized media representations of that field. Even if they don't say so directly, how they react can reveal information about their stance, relative to the the thing they're commenting on. Especially when you take into account those commenters position and role within their field. It's sorta like asking a chef, a line cook, a restaurant manager, and a hostess at Y restaurant about the food and service at Z restaurant (where Y and Z may or may not be equivalent in some or all ways...it'd be interesting regardless).

(Granted, I'd be curious to hear what NASCAR drivers think about Black Swan, too. And I'd think it'd be just as valid, but based on an entirely different equivalency than the one you're putting forth.)
posted by iamkimiam at 10:20 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I actually really like that she basically goes crazy because she's in a Darren Aronofsky film and that's just what people do in Darren Aronofsky films, with very little other pretext given. But you couldn't exactly say it was a nuanced psychological study or anything.

This is why I love Kaufman. He knows that serious art is rarely recognized and certainly not monetized. He also knows that shallower plot elements provide more drama and better movies, so he makes movies that combine and mock both.

I saw Synecdoche twice while it was in theaters. The first time, everyone wept through the most dramatic scenes. The second time, everyone laughed. Then I realized that every single climax was so dramatic that it became absurd, and the only difference between comedy and tragedy was the mood of the audience that day. I understood the same switch in Adaptation, but Synecdoche really takes it to new heights.
posted by notion at 10:25 AM on January 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Comedy is tragedy sped up.
posted by The Whelk at 10:27 AM on January 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


Thank god the audience wont be exclusively ballet dancers.
posted by fire&wings at 10:28 AM on January 8, 2011


blucevalo: "However, if you are going to interview ballet professionals about a movie that features ballet, whether the movie's really "about" ballet or not, expecting them not to snark about the technique of the dancing is kind of pointless."

I suspect that this is a very common sentiment. It says a lot actually about how we, as a society, perceive ballerinas and dancing as an art form and a profession. And how ballerinas themselves either buy into or refute those perceptions and/or stereotypes. Also, how much awareness they have that they even exist.

This becomes more evident when you substitute [stigmatised and/or underrepresented profession] and [the thing they do] for "ballet professionals" and "ballet". Our expectations about the ensuing snark or skill might change accordingly.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:31 AM on January 8, 2011


There has been some commentary from US-based dancers too. This one from two principals at ABT, for example. No snarking about technique there (except in the comments).
posted by gemmy at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2011


The Devil Tesla:"Banana foot"

GAHHHH


What's not to like about a woman who can scoop ice cream with her foot?
posted by dr_dank at 10:36 AM on January 8, 2011


Black Swan is three parts The Piano Teacher and two parts Repulsion, with dashes of All About Eve and The Red Shoes. It really has nothing original to say about anything, really.

None of these movies have anything original to say about anything. They are all explorations of the same dramatic themes that have been since the invention of theatre. A movie's greatness can not be measured purely in originality, and a filmmaker can not be expected to make films that don't evoke or even directly refer to other films. You may think you are seeing through the filmmaker's facade when you notice these things, but it's really not that simple.

Also: Black Swan and Bathrooms.
posted by hermitosis at 10:37 AM on January 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh god the mirror imagery, which seems like it should feel indulgent but doesn't, cause the movie is literally about her and the inside of her head and her looking at herself. It's just really good.
posted by The Whelk at 10:39 AM on January 8, 2011


I should probably mention I've seen this movie three times in three weeks already cause I keep dragging people to it.
posted by The Whelk at 10:41 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now I have seen The Fighter and wait for some 10 or so professional boxers give their opinion of the film so I can decide what I ought to believe. And for True Grit--cowboys, anyone?

There aren't any cowboys in True Grit. There are a bounty hunter, a Texas Ranger, and a bunch of stick-up men, who happen to ride horses and wear big hats. However, I would happily read a review of that film by a person of any of those professions.

I thought the reviews by people involved in ballet were interesting. Just because one happens to disagree with them doesn't mean they don't have valid points. Clearly there were some attempt at authenticity regrading dancers- would anyone else notice the toe shoe prep? - so I don't think it's talking trash to examine what the movie did and did not get right regarding the profession. Clichéd plot points are lame and uninteresting, no matter what the subject. That's a complaint I've had with all the Aronofsky movies I've seen- he goes for the obvious instead of the subtle.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:41 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


How many films have anything original to say about anything? It is in how they say it rather than what they say that makes for good or bad art.
posted by Postroad at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a little surprised that the ballerinas hated on the dancing, actually. I know nothing about ballet, and it seemed to me that it was a well-informed movie. Little touches like the scoring of the shoes, which one of the interviewees mentioned, really sold the appearance of accuracy to me.

So yeah, it's interesting to me that real ballerinas weren't impressed with the bits that weren't especially over-the-top and surreal, because I was naively impressed by them. Unfortunately, the movie made me kind of excited about getting to learn something about ballet, and now I'm less enthused.
posted by painquale at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2011


The thing is, Black Swan is really about ballet less than it's just about artistic process; I found myself relating to Nina intensely as she attempts to find this thing inside of her that scares the hell out of her, because this is a thing that's happened to me as I try to realize a particularly difficult character when I write, and I think many artists in any medium (probably actors more than most) know this experience very well. She could have been an actress or an opera singer instead with just about zero impact on what the film is trying to get across.

Of course, what pisses a ballerina off about the movie is how it gets ballet wrong; what pissed me off about it was how Aronofsky totally squandered his story in the last act. I read that the script was actually a mash-up of two unrelated screenplays, and man do I believe it. I wish he'd stuck with the ending from the good one, because the first two acts sure set up a lot of plotlines that don't pay off worth a damn, but seemed a lot more interesting.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:47 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


One unique feature of the movie was that every scene was intensely watchable. There aren't any scenes which just serve to advance the plot without being gripping in their own right. It is not a movie that allows for bathroom breaks.

Kittens for breakfast, the screenplay felt pretty tight to me. What two plotlines are you thinking of? One about Mila Kunis's character usurping her role and one about her mommy and daddy issues?
posted by painquale at 10:53 AM on January 8, 2011


I once did some design work for a trade organization made up of salespeople. In one of our early meetings I asked the they sat around and watched Glengarry Glen Ross all day. I was being kind of snarky because the head guy was an asshole. But at the same time, it is one of my favorite movies. It was like pulling out a working lightsaber in a room full of Star Wars fans. We spent the next hour geeking out enthusiastically about how amazing Glengarry was. And these weren't young fancy suit wearing new guys trying to put on appearances. It was a table full of grey haired lifers.

At some point I brought up the fact that every single character was despicable in some way. They all just laughed.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:53 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dance critic Apollinaire Scherr hated it.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:55 AM on January 8, 2011


Kittens for breakfast, the screenplay felt pretty tight to me. What two plotlines are you thinking of? One about Mila Kunis's character usurping her role and one about her mommy and daddy issues?

I'm hesitant to delve into too much detail because I really don't want to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it yet; I think it's a fantastic but very frustrating movie, but I saw it with at least one person who declared it pretty much perfect, and I don't wanna mess it up. Yeah, though, the Lily storyline ultimately pays off very poorly to my mind when you consider all the work that goes into building it. I think we're talking about the same thing when you cite the mommy and daddy issues and if so...I feel like those wind up just consuming the entire movie in a way that could've been done a bit more deftly, vis a vis the narrative that Aronofsky pretty much abandons by the end. But I mean, really, any scene you could isolate as illustrative of Aronofsky's lightest touch as a director would still be basically the shouting two-headed love-child of Douglas Sirk and Oliver Stone as shot by the cinematographer of 2001: A Space Odyssey, so he'd probably have to be another filmmaker completely to have delivered a last act like the one I'd have hoped to see. I knew what I was getting into!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:07 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


The movie is not about ballet.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, but it seems that much of the suspense, drama, etc. of the film relies on a long history of commonly recognized tropes and stereotypes about ballet, which is what the second link of the FPP is all about.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:32 AM on January 8, 2011


SPOILERS AHEAD

Yeah, though, the Lily storyline ultimately pays off very poorly to my mind when you consider all the work that goes into building it. I think we're talking about the same thing when you cite the mommy and daddy issues...

I mean, you realize that the plot is closely related to the plot of Black Swan (the ballet), right? Except Nina is both swans. This was probably my biggest problem with the movie: Once it became clear that Nina was projecting her own inner darkness (the part of her that makes her bite Vincent Cassel somewhere in Act 1) onto Mila Kunis' character, you knew how the end would play out. I'm not sure how you can have the ending of the movie be much different, though; if it had, we'd all be wondering why the thing was called Black Swan instead of, I don't know The Nutcracker.
posted by axiom at 11:39 AM on January 8, 2011


I almost always consider whether how well a film reflects reality when assessing its quality. Sometimes the concern is negligible. In Arronofsky's The Fountain, for instance, I didn't mind all the distortions of history and medicine and science because I understood that the film as a fantastical meditation on coping with terminal illness and grief--as long as the emotional part was honest, I could stand for the rest of it being made up.

In Black Swan I suppose I can ignore all the defects of ballet technique as long as I can't myself perceive them (I thought the dancing was impressive) but I must admit that having my attention called to the various cliches of the ballet diminishes my regard a little, just as the confirmation of some of the small realistic details increases it.

Ultimately, the reason I cannot recommend the film is because the whole "descent into madness" angle rings very false to me, a caricature of the obsessive artistic temperament as a kind of stress-induced schizophrenia. I'm not sure a nervous breakdown needs all that hallucinogenic window dressing; it's kind of a step backwards for a director who made such a monstrous affair of addiction in Requiem for A Dream simply by showing the horrific cause and effect of drug-induced bad decisions.
posted by millions at 11:39 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure a nervous breakdown needs all that hallucinogenic window dressing

Not so much a movie about ballet as it is a ballet, not so much for the form (dancing) but through the heightened and stylized emotion and warped reality it takes place in.
posted by The Whelk at 11:42 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or, as whispered to me in the theater after Nina uh ...stands up to her Mom (Oh god the cracking)

"Bitch is gonna kill someone."
posted by The Whelk at 11:42 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


....er in that you know what's going to happen from pretty much the first ten minutes and I was still engrossed.
posted by The Whelk at 11:50 AM on January 8, 2011


I bet it isn't even as good as Center Stage.
posted by gyc at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have been other articles with more positive reviews of Black Swan from ballet dancers, particularly this column in the Daily Beast by New York Ballet principle dancer Wendy Whelan. She even goes so far to admit that "no real dancer I can imagine could have portrayed the depth of emotion this role required, it needed a great actress. She also admits that the scene where Nina steals Beth's (outgoing principal dancer) makeup rang true as she used to surreptitiously "steal a spritz of Chanel No. 5 from my favorite ballerina's perfume bottle when no one was around."

NYT also did a blog post Dancers Weigh in on Black Swan that quotes heavily from the Whelan's Daily Beast column, but also contains both positive and negative critiques from other dancers (or links to articles).

Overall, I liked the film and thought Natalie Portman did a good job, even though she far from my favorite actress. I agree with whomever said that the role played up aspects of her acting and speech (the woodenness, breathy girlish voice) that would be a detriment in other roles. And I think it's fair that people, in this case ballet dancers, that are heavily involved in the world being portrayed, are going to be hypercritical of the aspects of portrayal that ring false to them.
posted by kaybdc at 11:54 AM on January 8, 2011


There has been some commentary from US-based dancers too. This one from two principals at ABT, for example. No snarking about technique there (except in the comments).
posted by gemmy at 10:35 AM on January 8


Comments from some Canadian dancers here.

As much this discussion is about what dancers think, it's equally about the fact that this is a pretty standard reporting technique. Of course it's only trotted out if the profession depicted is a) artistic b) glamorous c) famous. We're not likely to see plumbers or mechanics or accountants trotted out to discuss how accurately or badly movies depict their professions.
posted by sardonyx at 12:02 PM on January 8, 2011


I rarely go to the movies, and prefer to watch them at home. However, I recently went to see "Black Swan" alone because I was so interested in the subject matter, and didn't want to be distracted while watching it. I loved it. I was completely clenched up for the last 20 minutes of the film, and was physically and mentally unable to relax until I was in the car for a good 15 minutes. The movie was visceral and quite entertaining.

That being said, I find the "reviews" by the dance community to be silly. It's a movie, FFS. A Hollywood production. The only thing that they should have been reviewing was the technical pieces, to give their opinion on whether the actors were convincing enough technically. (Anecdata: I took 10 years of ballet a hundred years ago, and IMO, it is one of the most strenuous and physically demanding forms of dance there is. It is so structured and rigid and at my age now, I am physically unable to replicate even the 5 foot-positions. But that's just me).

Point being this: Ask the dancers if the actors were convincing enough from a dance perspective. I think Whelan is accurate in saying that a dancer would have a tough time with the acting piece.

But let's just remember, it's a movie. Created for entertainment for the masses.
posted by sundrop at 12:12 PM on January 8, 2011


Ask the dancers if the actors were convincing enough from a dance perspective.

You don't understand. The dancing and the portrayal of ballet have to be perfect. PERFECT!







PERFECT!!
posted by hermitosis at 12:33 PM on January 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


Not so much a movie about ballet as it is a ballet, not so much for the form (dancing) but through the heightened and stylized emotion and warped reality it takes place in.

Thank you for suggesting that. But are David Lynch's last 3 or 4 features also ballets then?

I know next to nothing about ballet. I take it for granted that the art has a variety of conventions used to express various forms of experience through dance. What I fail to understand is the particular advantage of presenting in Black Swan the pressure of being selected for a demanding role experienced by a repressed woman as a schizophrenic nightmare.

As I've said in my earlier comment, I have no quarrel with the use of fantasy as a vehicle for emotion or experience, no inherent objection to "heightened and stylized emotion and warped reality". But if I'm to excuse what appears to be an artistic miscalculation on par with trying to achieve something like Whistler's Mother in the style of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, in good faith I would care to know what is about categorizing Black Swan as ballet rather than cinema that affords it this privilege. After all, I don't imagine that the dancers who interpret Swan Lake move as though they were penguins, or any other such incongruity.
posted by millions at 1:19 PM on January 8, 2011


But are David Lynch's last 3 or 4 features also ballets then?

YES. I mean, in those terms, definitely.
posted by hermitosis at 1:20 PM on January 8, 2011


I don't imagine that the dancers who interpret Swan Lake move as though they were penguins, or any other such incongruity.

I HAVE AN ADORABLE IDEA.
posted by The Whelk at 1:21 PM on January 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


I agree with those that shrugged at what ballerinas felt about this movie. It's not necessary to have perfect form in order to tell the story Aronofsky wanted to tell.

I think the movie was decent- the acting was great and the cinematography was excellent, which is to be expected of Aronofsky. But c'mon... every single character in the film was a stereotype and despite numerous chances to lift the characters above caricature, including at the very end, the script failed to flesh out any of them.

Worked as a horror flick though.
posted by dave78981 at 2:06 PM on January 8, 2011


Ballet dancers on Black Swan... I remember reading an interview with a criminal (I think it's in Alix Lambert's phenomenal book Crime) where he comments on The Shawshank Redemption, a film I loathe but which everyone else seems to like. He remarked that every convict he ever spoke to about it thought it was laughably bad and "written by a moron" or something to that affect.
posted by dobbs at 2:07 PM on January 8, 2011


And some of us like to wear pastel colours sometimes.

Well I know at least one dancer that for years always/only wore pink/pastel and always had her hair in a bun. Maybe the pink was partially financial, but she looked incredible. And a lot of dancers keep the bun when off.

But dancers will never be happy with a film representation of that life, the subtleties of the crazy obsessiveness (which I'd return to without a second thought if it were possible) might come out in a novel but I can't see the internal zeitgeist coming out in a film. Haven't seen it yet though.
posted by sammyo at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2011


The rigorous art of ballet, from the Washington Post via yesterday's A&L Daily.
posted by kozad at 2:10 PM on January 8, 2011


Ballet. In my list of "Things I Do Not Get" it comes right next to "People who seem to think that fiction needs to be exactly like reality, especially when it portrays something I personally happen to be great at".

I couldn't take "The Right Stuff" at all seriously after I found out that Sam Shepard wasn't actually able to actually pass all those astronaut tests and actually go into space, actually.
posted by Decani at 2:18 PM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


But the dancers just talked about moves and stress and obsession and competition! They didn't answer the REAL question on everybody's mind, which is whether they are all lipstick lesbians! FAIL!

Actually, I didn't think the interviews were all that snarky, except for the one who talked about cliches. I am however reminded of that scene from "The Full Monty" where the steelworkers are watching "Flashdance":

GAZ: It's "Flashdance." She's a welder, isn't she?

DAVE: A welder? I hope she dances better than she welds. Look at that. Her mix is all to cock.

GAZ: What the fuck do you know about welding, any road?

DAVE: More than some chuffing woman. It's like Bonfire Night. That's too much acetylene. Them joints won't hold fuck all.
posted by happyroach at 2:25 PM on January 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


And some of us like to wear pastel colours sometimes. But in the film it's all so extreme. And Nina's such a good little girl; she wears pink all the time, and her hair in a bun, even when she's outside.

I felt the same way about Aronofsky's use of color. Everything was so goddamn obvious in his set design and color schemes - Natalie Portman's clothes and her room reflect her naivete and daintiness, Vincent Cassel's character is constantly against minimalist or abstract black and white black and white (with black dominant), representing his "headiness", etc.

To be fair, the film is about Aronofsky (just like all of Aronofsky's films) not about ballet. His entire career has been about rewriting Kafka's "The Hunger Artist."
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:27 PM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aronofsky does many things but "subtle" is not one of them.
posted by The Whelk at 2:29 PM on January 8, 2011


SPOILER ALERT/CRITIQUE

I dunno, I saw a lot of the shaky camera work and hallucination stuff as par for the course with eating disordered behavior that is second nature to anyone in the performing arts. As a recovered bulimic who occasionally deals with blood sugar highs and lows, loves intense workouts, and can go almost a whole day without eating while on a deadline, seeing the world around me tremble and shake is not uncommon - but it's not daily, not like it was many years ago. I sure don't miss the psychotic mood swings and crying jags, which I am glad they showed in the toilet along with with the stereotypical vomiting. (Just once, I wish they'd show how hard it is to vomit sometimes - but I'll leave the accuracy complaints to the ballerinas.)

The fact that it's an easy horror trope, along with the mentioned combination of Rosemary's Baby and Dario Argento stylistic references, just makes it that much more ambiguous when you're watching. But yes, I thought all of those things while sitting in the theater, and found myself mentally yelling for Aronofsky to PAN BACK FROM THEIR FACES, jeez!

Throughout the movie, I felt myself drawing many parallels that had NOTHING to do with ballet but with being a woman, period. I wonder how many others feel the same? (Not trying to derail this, just saying.) The casting of Beth was beyond perfect, only because it drove the film over the top in a very early, very recognizable way - Beth has been waiting for her close-up, Mr. DeMille, and she's not going down without a fight...

Awesome film, and Aronofsky's touch is becoming as recognizable as Sam Raimi's. My friend's 15-year-old daughter said, "Mom, this movie is like those Japanese horror movies you like!" And I see that, too - it's suddenly OMG LOUD like in The Eye and you can't tell if you're seeing what the character sees or reality. What's the difference?

When there's no difference, you know it's a horror film.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:37 PM on January 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


I dunno, I saw a lot of the shaky camera work and hallucination stuff as par for the course with eating disordered behavior

You know, I said "A good 30% of this movie is all eating disorders" to two people I dragged to see it. The male philosophy student said No Way but the female dancer/performer went Oh Obviously.

It's body horror and I'd say female-centric body horror. Which is interesting.

Aronofsky has wanted to remake Perfect Blue for a long time and there is alot of Perfect Blue in Black Swan.
posted by The Whelk at 2:43 PM on January 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh and having seen it three times, I like who there is no cheating the viewer - the hallucinations are clearly marked and the backpedaling is minimal. And her biggest WTF moment coincidences with the largest and most intense of them.
posted by The Whelk at 2:45 PM on January 8, 2011


SPOILERS

I mean, you realize that the plot is closely related to the plot of Black Swan (the ballet), right? Except Nina is both swans. This was probably my biggest problem with the movie: Once it became clear that Nina was projecting her own inner darkness (the part of her that makes her bite Vincent Cassel somewhere in Act 1) onto Mila Kunis' character, you knew how the end would play out. I'm not sure how you can have the ending of the movie be much different, though; if it had, we'd all be wondering why the thing was called Black Swan instead of, I don't know The Nutcracker.

I think the problem here for me is that Lily (Mila Kunis's character) is serving two roles in the film in a way that I don't think works very well or is terribly coherent. Somehow or other Nina's black swan (the doppelganger she sees in the subway station) merges, I guess, with her idea of Lily, which is related to the real Lily (kind of) in a way that doesn't entirely gel with the notion of Nina's black swan as a suppressed part of herself...I mean, I dunno, this all just seems very messy to me from a plotting standpoint, and I feel like the film offers you a too-easy "bitch crazy!" out that does explain everything, but at the cost of the rivalry/seduction storyline that's at least a third of the film, and to me a much more interesting part of the film than all the tired mama drama stuff that feels phony anyway.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:13 PM on January 8, 2011


I dunno, I saw a lot of the shaky camera work and hallucination stuff as par for the course with eating disordered behavior

No spoilers in this comment.

Shaky camerawork was definitely a deliberate choice. The cinematography was stunning -- at the most basic level, about half the film took place in rooms with a big honking mirrors in them. All of a sudden, even a very simple scene becomes much more difficult to film under those conditions. And the dance numbers...I cannot even comprehend how they managed to film them -- the camerawork was simply exquisite. If you haven't seen it yet, just think about where the camera needed to be located (and how it needed to move) in order to get the shots that they did.

(Also, I was reading that the soundtrack was being disqualified from most of the major awards, as it was considered too derivative of the original score. This is a crying shame, given that I've rarely seen a soundtrack so perfectly matched to the film that it was accompanying. Every dramatic beat was perfectly matched to a beat in the score. I think I agree with the assessment that the film itself was very much a ballet.)

However, the film was not about ballet, any more than A Beautiful Mind was about math. The ballet provided the setting, and not much more.
posted by schmod at 4:02 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Black Swan is to ballet movies as A Bucket of Blood is to the fine arts. I wouldn't ask Pollack for his response to the latter and think it mattered, or was even interesting.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:19 PM on January 8, 2011


It was messy, I agree, kittens, but I liked it anyway. Also I wonder how many people who've gone to see it have ever been to a real live ballet performance. Dance is one of those ephemeral arts. Horror movies live forever on celluloid, or digital, or youtube. Just rambling.
posted by emhutchinson at 4:30 PM on January 8, 2011


Throughout the movie, I felt myself drawing many parallels that had NOTHING to do with ballet but with being a woman, period. I wonder how many others feel the same?

I felt the same! I was struck by the scenes where Nina was taping up her battered feet, and the eating disorder stuff, and all the gruesome things she did to her body in order to look perfectly natural and as though nothing hurts. It reminded me a bit of learning to sashay in heels (and putting moleskin on blisters to keep doing it) and putting on makeup in the morning in order to look fresh-faced, and getting an expensive haircut so that I can look tousled, and and and.

n.b. I only managed to sit through the first half and then had to leave, partly because it was a very intense movie and I have trouble watching violent things happen to women's bodies, and partly because we arrived too late to get a good seat and were crammed in the front corner of the theatre, which is a terrible angle for watching anything even the slightest bit shaky. Someday I will watch the whole thing though!
posted by bewilderbeast at 4:30 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am a balletomane, a thoroughly snobby one. Loved the film. I don't know why they're being critical over Portman's fucking port de bras in a movie that was basically "TRY GETTING A RESERVATION AT DORSIA NOW YOU STUPID FUCKING BASTARD (emphatic jeté)"
posted by monster truck weekend at 4:47 PM on January 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think the problem here for me is that Lily (Mila Kunis's character) is serving two roles in the film in a way that I don't think works very well or is terribly coherent.

MOARSPOILERS: I think it's extremely coherent, and thoughtful. Lily serves as a scapegoat/foil onto which Nina can project her darkness because she is in denial about its actual origin (herself, no longer satisfied with her highly regimented existence). Attempting to maintain her innocence/perfection, she ascribes all of her negative attributes onto Lily. She does the same to the dancer holding her when she falls. Eventually this process fails (in the dressing room climax) and it is precisely this failure which allows her to dance the Black Swan, as the darkness usurps her and her flaws become apparent. This process is fatal to her original "white" personality, hence the apparent death (which is very much magical realism, I don't think are meant to believe she has really committed seppuku and then somehow danced the final scene without bleeding.)

This projection process is again hinted at in the drug scene, where Nina not only observes her drink being spiked but then acknowledges Lily has done it, basically consenting to it ("only a few hours, right?"). Then the next day she tries to pretend at innocence and blame Lily for spiking it, which falls flat for obvious reasons.
posted by mek at 5:42 PM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think are meant to believe she has really committed seppuku and then somehow danced the final scene without bleeding.

I maintain she totally did it.

Cause then the entire movie is trying to explain to you how she got to that point.

She doesn't start to bleed out until she removes the mirror shard and we have independent confirmation via Tomas, "What have you done to yourself?" So her moment of greatest removal from reality is also the biggest hallucination we see (and occurs during the climax of the ballet, which another kind of reality).

Granted we can assume a lot of perspective and unreliable reporting as to how exactly she stabbed herself, but I think the final scene makes it clear.
posted by The Whelk at 6:01 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


She doesn't start to bleed out until she removes the mirror shard and we have independent confirmation via Tomas, "What have you done to yourself?"

STILL MOAR SPOILERS: No, she removes the shard in the dressing room after she puts on her white swan costume for the finale (which is, interestingly, slashed, as if she stabbed herself while wearing white, but she clearly stabs Lily while Lily is dressed as black... this is important!) , and then dances the finale and then bleeds out as soon as she lands on the mattress, "dying" as the swan. It's explicitly fantastic. Don't get too hung up on distinctions between "objective reality" and "hallucination" in Aronofsky's cinema, and trying to track what is "real" and what is not, as things are a lot more fluid than that. It's a film, not a documentary.

Also note we never see any of these costume changes, she just switches back and forth as if by magic. How would she change from white to black to white without noticing the hole in her stomach that she stabs into fake-Lily before is even in the black costume? This stuff simply doesn't track while wearing your realism hat, and it's not meant to.
posted by mek at 6:15 PM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't remember the purging scenes and I saw the movie several times. When did this occur?
posted by geoff. at 6:16 PM on January 8, 2011


Yeah I'm not treating it like a puzzlebox movie, in my head, she died.
posted by The Whelk at 6:20 PM on January 8, 2011


geoff, there's a quick throwing up right before WHORE MIRROR and some more hinting-half shots later.

Female dancer friend said she loved the camerawork cause you really got a sense of that fast whipping around, uncontrolled state you can get in where you're both moving to pure muscle memory and terrified you'll fall/mess-up/injure yourself.

I am so not a fan of handheld, but it was used here so well and so controlled that i didn't even think about the mirror placements til now. They must have in some crazy angled cherry picker for half those scenes.
posted by The Whelk at 6:28 PM on January 8, 2011


Exquisitely applied black hand make-up?! That shit would last all of 5 seconds before it would be all over your partner & the extraordinarily expensive costumes.

After watching the film you'll realize how this so... so doesn't matter.

The movie was awesome.
posted by odinsdream at 7:51 PM on January 8, 2011


There were a couple of throwing up scenes, actually, but I didn't consider it to be purging. I thought it was just her dealing with anxiety overload.
posted by graventy at 7:51 PM on January 8, 2011


This process is fatal to her original "white" personality, hence the apparent death (which is very much magical realism, I don't think are meant to believe she has really committed seppuku and then somehow danced the final scene without bleeding.)

I think it's quite odd to claim that she's not actually bleeding in the final scene. I realize this makes for some weird gymnastics with regard to costume changes and other stuff, but it seems pretty obvious in the final that we're to take it as "real" for those around her that she's bleeding, for whatever reason.

I am so not a fan of handheld, but it was used here so well and so controlled that i didn't even think about the mirror placements til now. They must have in some crazy angled cherry picker for half those scenes.

Oh man, yes - the camera work was just awesome. In the same way that I'll sometimes be watching a movie and say to myself, regarding CGI, "Well, that was expensive..." (like the sewer water scene in Rattatoulli), when they had the first mirror-room scene in Black Swan I was gasping to myself.
posted by odinsdream at 8:12 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aronofsky employs dream logic and magical realism in most of his movies, I think it's odd to try to interpret the film any other way. This movie contained his usual Satoshi Kon nods. At any rate I think it's a lot more interesting if you don't try to find the "correct" reading.
posted by mek at 8:24 PM on January 8, 2011


Could we get some nail technicians' opinions too?

'Cause seriously, all I've been able to think about since I saw this movie was the horrible shape of my cuticles.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:09 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been playing too much Game Dev Story lately, so when I saw we were having a Black Swan thread, my first thought was:

"A Body Horror Ballet game? I'm not sure that will sell very well..."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:03 AM on January 9, 2011


"People who seem to think that fiction needs to be exactly like reality, especially when it portrays something I personally happen to be great at"

I think the issue is more that the thing the dancers here happen to be great at isn't often a big part of movie plots. When the thing you're great at is something like (to gloss over a whole raft of disciplines) "computers" then either you're going to get over this attitude fairly quickly or you're going to stop watching movies.
posted by robertc at 5:11 AM on January 9, 2011


SPOILER LAKE

Also note we never see any of these costume changes, she just switches back and forth as if by magic. How would she change from white to black to white without noticing the hole in her stomach that she stabs into fake-Lily before is even in the black costume? This stuff simply doesn't track while wearing your realism hat, and it's not meant to.

I hear what you're saying, but I think the question of what's real and what's not is -- by the end of the movie -- a much less thorny one than all of that. I want to say that I like the idea of Nina's death being symbolic, and by extension the idea that what we've been seeing for two hours is Nina's crazy Jungian vision quest that has its ultimate expression in a death she will keep experiencing every fucking night until the show's over. Her not-objectively-but-emotionally-real death (and rebirth), which is only a cop-out if the viewer hasn't already grasped how important the movie is saying art and symbols really are. That's cool, I dig it, and I also dig the movie in my head where Lily actually is this voracious, amoral creature who would seduce and destroy for both her own (selfish) and even Nina's own good; I also think that movie is more interesting than the "lezzie wet dream!" version.

In both cases, though, I don't think this is really the movie on screen -- in the real Black Swan, while we never see how exactly Nina stabbed herself, I'm pretty sure she really did. There seems to be enough outside confirmation on it. The blood issue is a valid one, but I think it's less work for the viewer to presume that much of what we're seeing w/r/t Nina's appearance on stage is hallucinatory anyway; it's not worth overthinking her costume changes when, for instance, the truly spectacular Black Swan costume probably only exists in Nina's imagination. A relatively small wound that gradually opened wider during the course of the performance could, I suppose, not be noticed at first, although really on a literal level the idea this woman could be bleeding and dancing for like two hours and it's all good does kinda sound like bullshit; I'm not sure whether making a concession for a bullshit plot point because it's cool (which I think it is) is how you would define magic realism, but if so, then yeah, that's what I think that is.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:43 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Realism is still a relatively new idea in storytelling, and it's not always a welcome idea, either. Nina's death can be read as either "real" or "figurative," but there's no reason to think that it can't be both - Nina is not a real person, and there is no real body to perform an autopsy on. I believe that Nina died in Black Swan, even though the exact manner of her death was not plausible in reality, but she "died" in a way that's very different from when real people or even characters in a realistic story die. She died even in a way that's very different from how the Wrestler died.

It's a story, and it's a good story, so it's not as limited as real life. A fairy tale for adults.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:37 AM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


nytimes version
posted by kliuless at 11:19 AM on January 9, 2011


The next thing they'll try and tell us is that onlysome ballet dancers are stress-induced lycanthropes, and it's a heavy prejudice they all bear. (except those that transform in to bears. If you are a noun it'd be silly to also verb.)
posted by Theta States at 9:43 AM on January 10, 2011


You can also read the blood imagery at the end as linked to the Portman character growing up (finally), breaking out of her good-little-girl persona. By dancing both roles perfectly, and by killing the good girl at the end, she's a fully-rounded woman. Even if you read the stabbing and blood as being penetration rather than menarche, it works.

I loved this movie.
posted by cereselle at 9:44 AM on January 10, 2011


This is like wondering what doctors think of "House," or boxers think of "Rocky," or computer geeks think of "Hackers," or high school wrestlers think of "Vision Quest," or porn actresses think of "Boogie Nights."

As a computer geek, I think "Hackers" was hilarious, for what it's worth.
posted by atbash at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2011


Spoilers ahead...

One thing that is sort of bugging me is that if Nina does actually die at the end of opening night is that presumably, Lily would get the role for the rest of the show's run, no? So in a sense, Evil Lily (even though she was mostly just evil inside Nina's head) still wins.
posted by naoko at 2:00 PM on January 10, 2011


As a computer geek, I think "Hackers" was hilarious, for what it's worth.

hackers is the best film ever. I now model my evil corporate career on The Plague.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on January 10, 2011


Well, hackers has Angelina making out with geeks in various states of undress. What's not to love.

Besides that, the other thing that lets it be loved by a geek is that the tech is so over the top, and so ludicrous, that we end up OK with it; we can suspend our disbelieve because there is no 'uncanny valley' of almost-tech.

Firewall does not enable me to suspend disbelief and just pissed me off. Maybe that is the geek equivalent of Black Swan, but to be fair, it was also a terrible movie (by general consensus, not just geek) which cannot be so easily said of Black Swan
posted by Bovine Love at 2:13 PM on January 10, 2011


Naoko: Well, according to the parallels you can draw all the way back to the book, All The King's Men, Lily ALWAYS wins.

To get what you want you might think you have to be Superman but then once you get it, there's Satan looking back in the mirror. You gotta work the system to subvert it, and by then, you're One Of Them.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:17 PM on January 12, 2011


One thing that is sort of bugging me is that if Nina does actually die at the end of opening night is that presumably, Lily would get the role for the rest of the show's run, no? So in a sense, Evil Lily (even though she was mostly just evil inside Nina's head) still wins.

Hee, even though you know Lily isn't actually evil, you're still going with that storyline. You've been incepted!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:09 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A BIT SPOILERY

Having finally seen the movie last night I can now read this thread!

I thought the movie was great even though I'm still not sure what happened in the end. I don't think it matters, but I'm wondering if she ever made it on to the stage for the last act or even for opening night at all.

I think this observation:

Throughout the movie, I felt myself drawing many parallels that had NOTHING to do with ballet but with being a woman, period.

is spot on.

A couple of other observations:

I saw her "transformation" in the black swan Act as her not having a sense of her own identity due to it being so tied up with her mum. So, in order to dance the black swan she had to become it in her own mind (and that's confirmed by the audience seeing her without the wings) because her identity was so tied to how other people viewed her -- she was too emotionally naive to be able to contain herself within her self.

I also think the elements of body horror also matched the ballet context perfectly. I learned ballet as a kid, spent three or four years doing pointe work and 22 years later my feet are just barely recovering. All the elements of pulling skin off and cutting her self and her toenails and even scratching herself (or whatever that was) just rang so true for me in terms of my experience of dealing with my body when I was dancing. I used to harden the skin on my toes with meths for christs sake (spilled it on my pillow one night, had great dreams!), I'd cut my blisters open to get them to heal and then put meths over the open blisters -- hell, my old pointe shoes are blood stained on the inside. At the same time, being en pointe and experiencing the pain was cathartic in a way and I think the movie took that to an outlying extreme in a fascinating way.
posted by prettypretty at 4:41 PM on January 22, 2011


The movie really sent me shivers. Seriously, who would ever send her kids to ballet classes after seeing this?
posted by periphery at 5:18 PM on January 26, 2011


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