Black Swan

There is a joy to seeing Black Swan with friends as the film dubbed as ostensibly about the staging of a ballet turns into some rather grizzly body horror and I speak as one who put hands over eyes on more than one occasion when watching director Darren Aronofsky once again turn stomachs.

Aronofsky’s film shows a production of Swan Lake which strikes one as a a far from sedate affair and send the mind boggling as to how Natalie Portman is cast in the same role that Billy Elliot ends up playing in Stephen Daldry‘s eponymous film of 2000. A transformation into Jamie Bell is not the body horror on offer.

Instead Aronofsky references such gory delights John Landis‘s 1981 oft watch An American Werewolf In London as bones break and transform into odd shapes. A nod too to David Cronenberg who defined the genre and if you have the compulsion to watch things become other things then his 1986 The Fly is a fine place to start.

Perhaps more horrific than the body horror though is French Ballet Director Thomas as played by Vincent Cassel who is a character so built of the cliché of European arrogance and the desire to sleep with everyone the script puts him next to that he almost derails the movie. Hollywood seems to love to give Cassel the role of movie ruining foreigner – his turn in Steven Soderbergh 2004 heist “romp” Ocean’s Twelve reached a level of irritating seldom thought possible.

Back in France though Cassel is capable of some jaw dropping work having made his name in 1995’s story of riots in Paris La Haine directed by Mathieu Kassovitz – a director who is now best known as “That bloke that Amelie goes out with in Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain” – and taken the title role in Jean-François Richet pair of Mesrine films about an infamous Gallic Gangster the first – Mesrine: L’instinct de mort – being especially wonderful.

Back in the ballet room though there are few better stories of life alongside a full length mirror than Powell & Pressburger’s immortal classic of 1948 The Red Shoes which pits a young dancer in the middle of a tussle between her tutor’s demand for utter devotion to the art and her love for a composer. At times Powell & Pressburger‘s heroine Victoria Page – played with aplomb by dancer Moira Shearer – seems to be metaphorically ripped in two by the demands on her.

Her pity then for Portman who is literally ripped in two.


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