A beautiful and nightmarish masterpiece (by DonFishies)
There are not enough words in the English language to describe the praise Darren Aronofsky deserves for Black Swan. It was one of the most talked about and sought after films at this year's Toronto International Film Festival which I managed to snag a ticket for , and for good reason – it is a masterpiece that is just as much beautiful as it is nightmarish.Nina Sayers Natalie Portman has toiled for years within a New York ballet company, always pushing herself. The company has fallen under hard times, and director Thomas Leroy Vincent Cassel makes the swift decision to put on a new <more>
rendition of the classic Swan Lake. With the company's go-to lead pushed into retirement, Nina is quickly selected to be the lead in the new ballet. With competition arriving in the form of new dancer Lily Mila Kunis , and the demanding desire for perfection from both Thomas and her overbearing mother Erica Barbara Hershey , Nina begins a journey into dark uncharted territory.Black Swan is an enthralling and visceral experience from beginning to end. Aronofsky has used what he has learned from making the raw and unflinching The Wrestler and the cerebral horror and incredibly disturbing Requiem for a Dream, and has crafted a film that you will simply not be able to take your eyes off of. He builds up rather slow, but right after that first moment of off-the-rails insanity, he delivers one hell of an incredible piece of cinema. One that is not easily able to be classified to any one genre.While you may have read suggestions that Black Swan and The Wrestler are two halves of the same film, make no mistake at looking at it any further beyond the comparison of being about two people toiling within two very different forms of art. Black Swan is never a low budget character piece. It is a film that navigates between being thrilling and horrific at the same time. While the horror elements start to take more prominence in the second half specifically the rather squeamish elements of body horror, done in a way that would make David Cronenberg proud , the film never lets one completely overtake the other. It manages to maintain this sense of dread, darkness and rather graphic wound/injury infliction throughout.The visuals and editing are the drive of what helps make the film so well done. Contrasting blacks and whites so frequently give the obvious hints of good and evil, innocence and darkness. But Aronofsky likes to throw in hints of ambiguity at every turn, changing the colours for each character depending on the scene, and depending on what they may or may not be doing. Even the scenery and set design is in plain black and whites, always making the audience guess the true motivations and intentions of both character and creator. Adding in the element of reflection, both in others and the self mostly through mirrors , only helps compound these feelings of ambiguity and confusion. It will consistently keep audiences thinking about what is being shown and what is actually going on. The subtle visual effects and astoundingly well done score only help add to the greatness.Aronofsky also deserves recognition for the film's lean running time. When so many films are often far too long and dragged out, this film maintains a sense of momentum that never gets lost at any point. The film's slow points are never dragged out, merely well padded out for the shift from Nina being innocent to adrenaline soaked horror as she descends into the realm of darkness. Rather gracefully, Aronofsky manages to balance the goal of Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin's script to blend Nina's tale with the story of Swan Lake itself, and never loses sight or direction at any instance. This is bravado style filmmaking at its finest, and more than suggests that the brilliant direction in Requiem for a Dream was not a fluke.Portman, who has shown her acting merits before in the likes of Closer, delivers a startlingly intense and beautiful performance as Nina. At once you can see the innocent, sexually repressed little girl who just wants to please her mother, and the sexually depraved fallen angel, inching closer towards independence and adulthood. She is very clearly not "well" in the beginning of the film, and as the film progresses, you can practically chart her 180-degree reversal in character. She is downright terrifying in many instances, and more than proves her worth as an actress. When she finally dons makeup late in the film, her transformation from a once promising talent to a full blown powerhouse talent becomes simply marvelous to watch.The supporting cast only helps to further complement Portman's extraordinary performance. Cassel is amazing as always as the slimy and twisted Thomas. We never really get more than hints at his true intentions, but Cassel makes every moment on-screen simply amazing. Kunis delivers a level of depth I never thought was possible for her. She commands the screen with every new scene, and this performance will easily act as a starmaking role for her. Hershey is even better; practically stealing the screen away from Portman's magnetizing performance. She makes Erica into that monster of a character everyone loves to hate, and brings a level of intensity to every mere moment she appears in. If anyone is even nearly close to equaling Portman's performance, it would be her. Despite only appearing for a few minutes, Winona Ryder is amazing in her role as the former lead ballerina Beth. I just wish she could have chewed up more scenery.Black Swan is an incredible film from beginning to end, and will not easily leave you. It is a masterpiece of unheralded success, and is easily the best film I saw at TIFF. Watch out for it at Oscar time – it just may steal the show.10/10.
I had the opportunity to see Black Swan in one of the 18 theaters that it opened up on this weekend, although I generally do not do so, I was compelled to write a review of the film.From top to bottom, this film is at the height of what it means to be true art in cinema. The various elements of the film, the mise-en-scene, was so incredibly structured by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky that one need only sit back and admire at the fluidity of his camera movement, or the marvelous hue of colors amidst a film which has it's color scheme largely dedicated to the symbolism of black and white.The <more>
performances where spot on, Vincent Cassel was terrific as the suspicious teacher, whose brilliance and lust for the dancers in his show are both quite reputable, one often beating out the other. And Mila Kunis truly shines in this one, bringing out a side of her many probably didn't know was possible. She is absolutely beautiful and aptly portrays the black contradiction to Natalie Portmans white, a terrific contrast of good and evil. Kunis, however, as many may assume, is not meant to be there to spark a general conflict of good vs evil, but to emphasize the side of Portman that we have not yet seen. A side that will drive her to the brink of insanity to obtain.And therein lies the true theme of the film, obsession and physical strain over all else. Much like "The Wrestler" we have the main character dedicated to an unappreciated form of physical art. Here, it is Portman's obsession with becoming the lead of the ballet Swan Lake which drives her into madness. You enter her mind as her teacher pushes her to become perfect, pushing her to let go of her fragile White Swan and become the loose and destructive Black Swan. As you follow her through the stages of her audition leading towards a booming finale she becomes less and less aware of what around her is distortion and what is reality. As she loses grip, Aronofsky's ability to depict psychological deterioration shines through.And make no mistake, this film belongs to Aronofsky and Portman. As stated, Aronofsky captures everything beautifully in frame, his movement of the camera is almost as fluent and beautiful as the very dancers on the screen. His use of behind the head vantage shots has been a bit of a trademark of his, allowing as to see what the character is. And his use of lighting is nothing short of extraordinary. But now comes the true star: Natalie Portman. She blew me away, from start to finish, she displayed her transformation for the sweet girl to the physically and psychologically obsessed, all the way through attempting to embody the white and black swan when necessary, literally trying to become them in her mind, driving her towards insanity in the pursuit of perfection. Words cannot describe Portman's performance here, to say it is Oscar worthy would be a vast understatement, as the depth of her character goes so deep it would nearly be worthy of playing two separate roles. So fragile at time that you fear for her life, and so corrupted at others that you hate her. Acting at it's finest, Portman deserves an Oscar.All things considered the film is nearly perfect, one of the best dramas I've ever seen, and one that is as iconic and intense as it is horrifying at times. Just to mention a few other things, Winona Ryder, in the small amount of screen time she had, was spectacular, and truly terrifying during particular scenes. And as always, when Aronofsky and Clint Mansell team up, the score is both epic and eerie, somehow simultaneously. The overcasting score of a distorted and intense version of Swan Lake itself brilliantly compliments the atmosphere throughout the film as these two artist have done before. It could nearly work as a silent film, that's how brilliant it is. If you get the opportunity once this film undoubtedly expands to other theaters see it, it's harrowing and at times difficult to watch, but that combination of beauty and horror makes it impossible to turn away.
I was lucky enough to see this at the Austin Film Festival and was absolutely blow away.Aronofsky is, in many ways, like Nick Cave. You know going in that you are going to get something gritty, raw, and real. You know that, even if it's good, it's going to be hard to process. But when he gets a hold of something, really gets a hold of it, you won't be able to look away, no matter how hard it is to watch. He is a singular filmmaker in the regard that he can create something that is both visceral and cerebral at the same time. Others can do this, but few as well. What he does is <more>
never hollow, shallow, or empty, it is always dense, deep, and rich with everything that makes film great."Black Swan" is no exception. In many ways this is the most Aronofsky of his films. His style is spot on and works exquisitely with the world he is presenting. It's surprising because he normally shows the dirty, gritty, and ugly places, where as everything in this film is clean and polished. But don't let that fool you, he saved the dirt and grit for the characters. It's remarkable that the man who was able to show the sensitive, and vulnerable side of a wrestler is also able to show the brutal and hard side of a ballerina? For starters, this film looks amazing. The production design, specifically the use of black and white in contrast don't spend time looking for this, it's everywhere and you will miss something if you do does it's job without feeling invasive. The lighting is brilliant, as is the staging of the dance scenes. I'm still stunned that the same eye that brought the grainy subway bathroom of "Pi" to life is the same eye that brings all this rich and beautiful color so clearly to the screen.He also does a brilliant job of creating the world that these characters inhabit. This film reminded me of all the terrible parts of my theater days. The backstabbing, the trash talking, and the two faced nature of that world is portrayed with a deft and brilliant touch. There is a constant fear that you are one mistake away from losing not only your part, but your future parts as well. You feel like you are a part of this world, that he pressure of it is part of your world.The camera work is great, if a little typical of Aronofsky at times we see the backs of heads quite a bit, it works, but you see it a lot , but it is very affective. The somewhat jittery, close hand-held shots are perfect and pull you deeper into this world than may be comfortable.Then there are the name performances. Of the name actors you mostly get what you expect. Portman, Cassel, Hershey, and Rider are outstanding. The only real shock, for me anyway, is Mila Kunis. I know her as Jackie from "That 70's Show," and nothing else. She damned near steals the show. That's right, in a move where she shares screen with Natalie Portman, AND Vincent Cassel she is able to not only hold her own, but walk away with some scenes. The interplay between her wild, unrestrained Lilly, and Portman's frightened, tightly wound Nina creates a brilliant external tension to match, and at times overpower, the internal tension that lies at the very core of Nina.I have been a fan of Aronofsky's work since I saw "Pi" on it's original theatrical run I think I was the only person in the theater for that midnight show , and he has yet to disappoint. He has a definite point of view and a thematic core that runs through his work. Thematically, this is in keeping with most of Aronofsky's work. It's about control and the loss of that control. What happens when a perfectionist control freak is in a position where she HAS to let go of that control? What takes over when she does let go? In typical fashion, Aronofsky shows us that sometimes in striving to get what we want, we risk losing a part of us that we may never be able to get back, and don't realize how desperately we need.Read more from me at www.thefilmthugs.com
Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" makes ballet cool—and if that isn't a Herculean feat in itself, I don't know what is. It also happens to be one of the best films of the year, featuring one of the best performances of the year. Natalie Portman will be nominated for her devastating portrayal of petite perfectionist Nina the ballerina or I'll pull a Werner Herzog and eat my shoe."Black Swan" is cut from the same cloth as Aronofsky's 2008 film "The Wrestler," if at the opposite end. Interestingly, before either project was realized, the director <more>
was reportedly mulling a drama about the relationship between a professional wrestler and a ballerina. Somewhere along the way, however, that concept was split down the middle—and thank God. "Black Swan" is brilliant, but it wouldn't necessarily play well with others.Like its predecessor, the film examines a physically demanding and widely unappreciated art, and though thematically similar, the two complement each other via mutually exclusive cinematic vernaculars. "The Wrestler" is ultimately a safer film. Its emotional experience is directly conveyed via plot and dialogue. What Aronofsky attempts with "Black Swan" is riskier: he plays genre Frankenstein, taking established themes and transplanting them into that which feels initially least appropriate—horror.Yet despite certain unmistakable cues, I'd hesitate to call "Black Swan" a horror film. Visually, maybe, but John Carpenter insists "The Thing" is a Western, and likewise there is more to "Black Swan" than is aesthetically obvious. It probably best fits the psychological thriller mold, but as Aronofsky suggests through his manipulation of mirrors, it is not a film that ever casts a clear reflection. For me, that dichotomy is what makes it so fascinating and rewarding."Black Swan" strikes an immediate haunting note that seems to grow louder with reverberation rather than quieter. In the first half, the director lays track work; in the second, he runs right off it. Nina begins her journey receiving the coveted role of the Swan Queen in a modernist production of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake." Her practiced technique makes her ideal for the role of the goodly White Swan, but her lascivious director Vincent Cassel has reservations about her ability to portray her evil twin, the titular Black Swan—a character that embodies impulse and lust. Nina's process of unlearning takes her to increasingly dark, surreal depths.The final act of the film comprises the most riveting 40 minutes I've seen on screen all year, though "Black Swan" is never the mindf**k some have improperly labeled it. Aronofsky deliberately builds atmosphere and anticipation toward a Kubrickian climax that is at once obvious and stunning. Tchaikovsky's score falls like an aerial assault, and that inherent theatricality collides with Aronofsky's narrative as they come to a dual boil.Perhaps best of all, however, is that for all the audacity on display, the director knows when to dial it back as well. The casting of Mila Kunis "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "That 70's Show" was idyllic. She plays a comic relief of sorts, with a comely, down-to-earth veneer but viperous eyes. Her performance is fantastically calculated—she provides derisive, but much needed perspective on Nina's deteriorating sense of reality."Black Swan" is a wholly effective work born from the shadowy underside of the mind, anchored by a career-defining turn by Portman. It is a quick, impulsive piece, but it explains artistic devotion and the consuming nature of obsession as well or better than any film I've ever seen. In hindsight, it feels more characteristic of the filmmaker responsible for "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream" than "The Wrestler," though the parallels between it and "Black Swan" run deep.They may be cut from the same cloth, but the difference between the two is as stark as black and white. Hail Aronofsky, the Swan King.
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is an examination of obsession. Obsession for beauty, fame, and above all, perfection. We are shown glimpses of its splendor, only to be consumed by the ugliness and harsh reality that is the world of professional ballet.Nina Sayers, played by the talented Natalie Portman, is placed in the precarious situation of replacing the company's former star Winona Ryder , the shining pupil of director Thomas Leroy Vincent Cassel , in the production of Swan Lake. The role is a dual role, in which she must play both the sweet, innocent White Swan as well as her <more>
evil twin sister, the Black Swan. Though Nina is best suited for the White Swan, she must find a way to evoke her inner Black Swan.Though all of the ballerinas in the company would kill for her role, the least jealous one, Lily, played by Mila Kunis in a breakthrough performance, has become Nina's biggest rival, catching the eye of Thomas. Still, Nina is set on perfecting the role.It is Nina's obsession for perfection, a constant theme through the film, that is the root of her troubles. This obsession is passed down from her mother, played brilliantly by Barbara Hershey. She too was a ballerina but gave up her career to support Nina, living vicariously through her daughter. Her obsession for dance is shared by all dancers, really, but Nina takes it a step further, causing it to physically and mentally affect her.The pain and suffering that Nina's goes through takes its toll early on in the film. She sees herself on the faces of strangers, the scratching and itching she inflicts on her back, yet we never see, and the scrapes and cuts that appear out of thin air, as if something inside of her is ready to burst out. As the film goes on, it becomes more clear that her thoughts and hallucinations are blending with her reality to the point where she can't distinguish the two from one another.Here's where Aronofsky's obsession/passion for filmmaking takes over. He too seeks perfection in his work, finding the right camera angles, the right tempo, and the right composition. This film has some of his best camera work to date, thanks to the cinematography of Matthew Libatique, whose fluid camera movements are the glue that hold the film together.Aronofsky is a director who tries to make his shots look as beautiful as they can be, while not blowing you away with CGI and special effects. The Fountain, though not a perfect movie by any means, had some truly outstanding photography also partnered with Libatique that wasn't heavy on the artificial special effects. Here he makes a similar attempt to create an incredibly realistic picture. It helps that both Portman and Kunis dedicated months and months of training and dieting to get the appropriate look for the film. That hard work paid off for sure.Without those two ladies the film would be lost. Having seen the film I can't see another actress in either role. They were perfectly cast. Portman, though not afraid to show some skin for the camera in a film like Closer and even Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones , acts and appears so fragile and innocent in many of her roles. Kunis on the other hand, hearkening back to her days on "That 70s Show" has always been the pretty girl with a bit of attitude. Her eyes are almost hypnotic. These two women play perfectly off of each other, contrasting like the two swans in the ballet. I'm sure the talk of the movie will be the scene in Nina's bedroom see it for yourself , but I enjoyed their night on the town leading up to the bedroom scene more. We see Lilly's influence and persuasiveness affect Nina tremendously.Their performances are backed by a tight story. It's takes us places that we least expect to go, showing us beautiful and disturbing images that you would not expect from a movie about ballerinas, making Black Swan one of the more original psychological thrillers in the past decade. Like every good thriller, there needs to be good music, too. Enter Clint Mansell, whose score for Aronofsky's second film Requiem for a Dream has become one of the more beloved scores of all time. I am particularly fond of his work for Moon, but Requiem is just as good if not better. Here we have a great blend of classical and original pieces.These pieces come together to create a portrait of a dancer whose demeanor gets in the way of her heart's yearning for success. When her dreams start slipping, her mind does the same. Passion leads to obsession. Obsession leads to transformation. The White Swan becomes the Black Swan, and she must pay the price.
I was very lucky to snag tickets to see Black Swan at the the Toronto International Film Festival. THE GOOD: Natalie Portman's acting was perfection - definitely an Oscar worthy performance. Mila Kunis's performance was surprising in a good way, it is clear that she stepped out of her comfort zone. The film's musical score was superb. Of course, much of it was taken from 'Swan Lake', but I loved that they were able to incorporate that music throughout the entire film and not just in the ballet scenes. Of course, it was beautifully shot and the plot was riveting - I was <more>
drawn in from beginning to end. The audience saw a new side of ballet/ theatre that is not often shown in popular films - the struggle the performer faces in committing to and perfecting a role. The struggle between 'good' vs. 'evil' was presented in a methodical and intriguing way. THE BAD: Many parts of this film felt like it belonged in the horror Genre. Some parts definitely made me jump or cringe which I was not expecting . The film was also an emotional roller-coaster, which was fine at first, but This 'emotional roller-coaster' sort of dragged on to the point that it almost felt like it was too much. I just feel that it could have been tuned down a notch. Overall, I thought that most of the film was wonderful, and I highly recommend it.
Natalie Portman lives a dream and a nightmare when she gets a chance to dance Swan Lake in Darren Aronofsky's new filmBlack Swan is a very bi polarized film. Portman dances as the white swan flawlessly, but her 'brilliant' choreographer has doubts about her as the black swan. She needs to 'live a little' and be less mannered, but the closer she gets to that point, the more the walls start to close in all around her.Darren Aronofsky, though he comes close to being heavy handed, has delivered a project which is fiery, spectacular and clever. He sells us ballet as something <more>
dark and off putting, starting from his decision to reveal what dancing does to peoples bodies. One mistake and you can crack a toe nail under your body weight, but I don't wanna oversell it. To look at Black Swan in another way, it is an operatic horror film, It has incredible style, but uses it not so much to dazzle but to confuse and intimidate. The paradox of Black swan is that it creepiness is kind of seductive, because it draws you in much like the way vampires are supposedly romantic But style is only half the picture not even . The rest is in the cast, and mostly in Natalie Portman. She is slow to get started, but she grows quickly and the result is arguably her best performance yet. I've never loved her that much. She's always struck me as more of a girl than a woman, but I guess all she needs is to get a little blood on her hands, and you have an award worthy performance. Vincent Cassel, though he gets some questionable lines, is also at his best. I would have almost liked to see more of him, because you get the sense that his role has a bit more room to grow.Black Swan does quite a bit, but it's not for everyone. Do not go into this expecting to be emotionally enriched. From the beginning, it is staged to be a mind-twirl, delighting in playing tricks on the audience. Some might call it cheating, but that would be the wrong way to look at Black Swan. It's quite epic, and with year coming to an end, I think it's fair to say that it is among the best of 2010.
Painful. Visually raw an entertaining psychological thrilling drama. It's very wicked and sexy it proves a profession sacrifices the body and soul. (by blanbrn)
I must say "Black Swan" is visually stunning in a crazy and raw kind of way, and in the meantime it leaves your heart bleeding with sorrow and pain. One thing is for sure and it's true that many of us can relate to and that is in a profession or line of work it's tough and most of all as this film proves it's a sacrifice to one's body and soul especially if one's going for perfection and clearly the lead character here Nina is trying her best. Director Darren Aronofsky "The Wrestler" is one who's known to go over the top as many of his films show <more>
the pain and dark side of life and clearly with this mind guessing thriller drama "Black Swan" Darren clearly pushed the envelopes to the edges as after viewing you will feel exhausted with satisfaction. Yet despite the accomplishment your heart will feel the pain and sorrow that came from the dark transformations and mind changes that little Nina went thru to obtain grace and face her demons.Set in New York city young Nina Sayers done brilliant and emotionally raw by the beautiful Natlie Portman is a hard working and up and coming ballet dancer. Nina is working her butt off to impress as she has to stay busy training when she receives constant stress and high expectation thoughts of success from her lonely ex ballet dancing mother Erica Barbara Hershey . Then a window of opportunity opens up as in the cutthroat business of dance a former lead dancer Beth Winona Ryder is let go. Now it's Nina's turn for the lead role in the production of "Swan Lake". Nina is ideal for the role of the white swan, yet from the get go she feels dogged and stressed by the great deal of pressure that's put upon her by her coach and instructor Thomas Leroy Vincent Cassel . It's almost like Nina feels like a black swan already.To complicate matters in what is really the most wicked and psychologically engaging and highly entertaining parts of the film is the work of Lily Mila Kunis in such a raw erotic wicked performance who is Nina's rival dance performer and Lily's the ideal part for the Black Swan. Only a tricky and cruel plan is in the works Lily will take Nina on a mind numbing wind journey of total transformation in my opinion and this will put Nina more in the form of an actual Black Swan! The performance from Mila was so great as her character Lily who's such a free spirit really rocks the boat as having Nina to come out of her shell and engage in hot lesbian love making just makes for some sweet eye candy especially seeing Kunis in a sexy black bra. Aside from that Nina feels overthrown with pressures from all three as the expectations of Thomas, Erica, and Lily's wicked cutthroat cat and mouse games have Nina on the edge of a mental and nervous breakdown. Interesting seeing how she's even resorted to masturbation to prepare for her lead role as the Swan. As many scenes are visually explicit not just the peeled skin, bumps, bruises, and blood scars but clearly you see in Nina's eyes she's like a possessed woman both mentally and physically as she's grown into the Black Swan literally.Overall "Black Swan" is a film that proves to aim for perfection it's a sacrifice with many struggles both mentally and physically. And even though Aronofsky showed that the goal can be obtained in the end as Nina did, still it comes with great sacrifice and sorrow as really Darren went over the top as his outcome and message will disturb many as clearly Aronofsky proves life can be dark even in the world of dance. Still aside from the sorrow and pain the film brings it's well blended with determination and will power that obtains satisfaction and highly enjoyable seeing one explore some of their wicked ways like Nina did as it's a little fun being wicked and sexy. The performances were top notch from both Portman and Kunis you could really see these two actresses were really inside their roles in fact it was reported that Portman said she felt she was even gonna die in real life on set while doing this role. "Black Swan" is well done even though hard to enjoy it shows that life is tough, and that sacrificing in a profession can be wicked, raw, and emotionally disturbing especially when perfection is obtained while the body and mind goes thru a psychological transformation.
BLACK SWAN Darren Aronofsky, 2010 ***1/2 (by Bunuel1976)
I had first read about this at the time of its Venice Film Festival presentation, where the picture was unsurprisingly but rather misleadingly compared by many to Dario Argento's supernatural shocker SUSPIRIA 1977 . Consequently, I went into BLACK SWAN nothing to do, of course, with the classic Tyrone Power swashbuckler from 1942 expecting more horror elements than were actually on offer, but I was still very much impressed with the end result. Back then, the movie was not really talked of as the Oscar contender it is clearly shaping up to be; still, two-thirds of the way in I was <more>
perhaps ready to consider it overrated myself that is, until the last act kicked in and took the film to a whole new level! Needless to say, given the ballet milieu, parallels to The Archers' THE RED SHOES 1948 could not be avoided it even contrives a similarly tragic denouement! . However, many another individualistic film-maker's style has also been applied to Aronofsky's effort: from Roman Polanski with shades of REPULSION  being especially felt throughout to Davids Cronenberg due to its adopting his trademark 'body-horror' device and Lynch the whole plays out like one of the director's surreal trips into the human psyche, and MULHOLLAND DRIVE  in particular .Being one of the major contributing factors to the film's success, a word is obviously in order now about the cast. Naturally, we begin with Natalie Portman: hers has aptly been described a courageous performance – in the Isabelle Adjani POSSESSION 1981 mould – not least because of scenes involving masturbation and lesbianism; having just recently watched Chloe Grace Moretz in LET ME IN 2010 , I could not help recalling Portman's own prodigious start as a teen in Luc Besson's LEON 1994 . I do not think I have ever watched Mila Kunis in anything prior to BLACK SWAN, but the favorable notices she has been getting for this role are well-deserved – managing to leave a mark even when the show clearly belongs to Portman. While Vincent Cassel is better than usual here, he is hardly in the same class as Anton Walbrook from THE RED SHOES and since his character promises us a visceral re-imagining of the Tchaikovsky opus, I was ultimately disappointed that the unfolding horror proved to be of the 'all-in-the-mind' variety! Barbara Hershey's possessive mother, then, lends the film a distinct CARRIE 1976 vibe. As for Winona Ryder, I guess one needs to commend her for being such a sport in accepting the role of a has-been; incidentally, the scene where Portman returns to the now-crippled Ryder the 'mementos' she had pilfered when star-struck of her emerges as its most poignant moment.Performers driven to the edge for the sake of art and fame has long been a cinematic staple, but it has rarely been done so vividly and with such tremendous punch; truth be told, I have always wondered in films like these just how talented actors could be made to play down their gift in scenes where they are not supposed to meet their on-screen taskmaster's standards, or whether the artist behind the camera at times needed to exert himself as much as the one in front of it in order to coax what he was striving for out of his cast! Reflection, too, plays a pivotal part in the narrative: mirrors are omnipresent, while several characters deliberately look alike so that Portman often sees herself in others! – preparing one for the bravura sequence where the heroine undergoes a 'literal' metamorphosis from her guise of White Swan i.e. gauche, virginal into the Black one embodying malevolence and seductiveness . No less important, however, is the disquieting score – which, apparently, consists of a variation on "Swan Lake" itself played in reverse! Having watched all of Aronofsky's feature films, I would probably rank this as his finest yet – with THE WRESTLER 2008 , his acclaimed previous release, placing close behind it. On the other hand, I am not over-the-moon as many others are about the rest of the director's work – finding PI 1998 too muddled, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM 2000 too depressing, and THE FOUNTAIN 2006 too ambitious for their own good!