David Gritten at the Daily Telegraph concurs with yesterday’s first wave of praise
Every film festival benefits hugely from a strong opening film, and they don‚Äôt come a lot stronger than Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky‚Äôs psychological thriller set in the world of New York ballet. Powerful, gripping and always intriguing, it also features a lead performance from Natalie Portman that elevates her from a substantial leading actress to major star likely to be lifting awards in the near future.
Meanwhile Stephanie Zacharek continues to carve out her oddball niche as the critic whose opinion has Zero Oscar relevance. Zacherek, we must recall, is the critic who would’ve been happier seeing Beyonc√© Knowles nominated for Best Actress over Meryl Streep two years ago. It’s a good thing she never tries to align with the Academy’s taste because she absolutely sucks at understanding what scores on awards night. In fact, it’s becoming a very reliable gauge: if Zacharek hates your movie then you’re probably winning an Oscar. So her trashing of Black Swan can only be seen as more good news:
Black Swan is really just a high-toned version of Showgirls, a movie that‚Äôs frequently derided as just being ‚Äúbad,‚Äù although I think Paul Verhoeven knew exactly what he was doing, and he was honest about his goals: He wanted to give us a glitzy, over-the-top show-biz fable, and he did.
There’s an opinion you won’t see coming from anyone else: “Showgirls is better than Black Swan.” That’s worth posting for its sheer ludicrous perversity. Back to reality-based awards instincts, more from the Telegraph’s David Grittin:
Black Swan is an exhilarating if uneasy ride, one that could deliver Aronofsky his second Golden Lion here in three years (he won in 2008 with The Wrestler). As for Portman, she can expect a busy few months at awards dinners.
Vulture collects the volatile data and sums it all up with an explosive, “Boom!”
Boom! Darren Aronofsky’s winged-ballerina thriller Black Swan screened last night at the Venice Film Festival and the reviews are nearly all good: In Contention‘s Guy Lodge gives it four stars and calls it “boldly deranged and beautifully despairing.” “Best film I‚Äôve seen all year,” declares Obsessed With Film‘s Robert Beames. “Aronofsky has made his first masterpiece.” Variety‘s Peter DeBruge says, “Aronofsky seems to be operating in the vein of early Roman Polanski or David Cronenberg at his most operatic.” “Alternately disturbing and exhilarating,” raves Screen International‘s Mike Goodridge, “[Swan] is one of the most exciting films to come out of the Hollywood system this year.” Also, IndieWire‘s Todd McCarthy calls it “a Red Shoes on acid,” which sounds awesome. So what of the film’s star, Natalie Portman, tipped as a contender in this year’s crowded Best Actress race?
She’s great, allegedly! In the movie, she plays Nina, a ballerina whose all-consuming passion for performing costs her something of a mental breakdown. All critics seem to agree the role is outside of Portman’s traditional comfort zone, but she pulls it off.
…to put it in the most basic possible terms, she’s an attractive star challenging herself with a trickier, less glamorous role than she’s usually known for, which is the formula for practically every Best Actress victory ever. She’s definitely in this race.
The notion that Natalie Portman has soared to tentative front-runner status was sewn here by Sasha yesterday, and the appealing prospect has grown study tentacles overnight, spreading fast to the mainstream media. EW agrees, The Washington Post says so too, and Deadline is feeling the same vibe.
Important enough to flog once more a day later? I think so, because I think it’s important to brace for the inevitable backlash too.