The PhilmGuy Reviews: 'Black Swan'

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Nov. 29 2010, Published 9:55 a.m. ET

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Deep inside every great artist, there is a lesbian ballerina stalker who wants to drug you and take your job. To attain greatness, you’ve got to stab her in the stomach and toss her into a bathroom stall. But not before getting it on with her. Because life is too short not to.

This is the main lessons I learned from Black Swan. Well, I guess it’s not right to say that I learned the lesson, because I’ve always known it, but I just needed the movie to remind me of the great truth.

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Oh, and another thing I learned that I already knew: Director Darren Aronofsky is a frikkin’ genius.

Black Swan is a labyrinthine head trip that spelunks through the messed-up mind of an artist in the most fascinating way I’ve seen outside Federico Fellini’s 8 ½. I’m not one for superlatives, but as ballet movies go, this is even better than Center Stage.

By not only making a movie about ballet interesting, but somehow making that movie one of the best movies of the year, and furthermore by making a movie in which Winona Ryder is only the third hottest actress in the movie, and furtherermore having those two actresses make out, Aronofsky proves to be a true master of his craft.


Through just a few films, just about all of them masterworks of the finest order, Aronofsky has established a distinct, powerful voice so strong and probing that every time he releases a new film, it should be regarded as the cinematic holiday of Aronofskoliday. As time passes and euphoria fades into detached contemplation, Black Swan may prove to be his best work yet. It’s got the inner obsessive torment of Pi, the hopeless derangement of Requiem for a Dream, and lonely psychological struggle for redemption of The Wrestler. Most importantly, it’s got none of the sucky pointlessness of The Fountain. But even though The Fountain was terrible, Black Swan is so good I pretty much want to change my mind and like that movie from afar just as a way of paying tribute to it.

mila kunis
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I’ll say little of the plot, only to share that it takes the story of Swan Lake, twists it around with psychosexual drama, and makes it seem resonant and exciting. Natalie Portman plays a ballerina who fears she’s nearing the end of her career, exuberant that she has the chance to replace a fading star (Ryder), while carrying on a dysfunctional romance with the company leader (Vincent Cassel) while trying to fend off a challenge from the mysterious new girl in the company (Mila Kunis).

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OK, halfway through that last paragraph, it occurred to me that Black Swan, like Burlesque, is pretty much an exact copy of Showgirls. And while the Showgirlsness of Burlesque made me hate that movie, the Showgirlsness of Black Swan is amazing and perfect. Does that make sense? Well, if it doesn’t, don’t worry, because neither does the ending of Black Swan on the literal level.


The beauty of The Black Swan is that it transcends the realms of logic and contrivance to make perfect sense on a metaphysical level. You watch the movie, recover from the gut punch of an ending and think, “Yes, that’s just right.” Then you gulp down some egg nog, open your presents and start counting down the days until the next Aronofskoliday.

Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder. Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin, based on a story by Andres Heinz. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. 107 minutes. Rated R.


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