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Black Swan in Telluride

Five days ago in Venice Black Swan roused audiences to their feet for a 5-minute standing ovation. A surprise screening in Telluride last night has inspired the same excitement stateside.

Eric D. Snider, Cinematical

Black Swan is a wholly engrossing, almost unbearably tense drama about a fairly mundane thing: backstage anxiety in the performing arts. Countless movies have addressed the same subject, but I feel safe in saying none have addressed it in quite this way. Aronofsky, working from a screenplay by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz, shows a knack for combining genres in a most unsettling fashion. Here you’ll find psychological thrills, body horror, sexual awakening, symbolic self-discovery, hallucinatory trickery, and the terrifying calf muscles of ballet dancers, all in one movie.

At the center of this psychological nightmare is Natalie Portman, giving the best performance of her career… She’s in nearly every frame of the movie, often dancing, often in close-up, conveying a huge range of intense and complicated emotions. No matter how suspenseful, strange, or astonishing things get, we’re right there with her, feeling every bit of Nina’s fear, confusion, excitement, and eventual liberation.

Peter Sciretta, SlashFilm

Black Swan is a brilliant mind fuck. It is one of the boldest films I’ve seen produced by a Hollywood studio in years.

Black Swan is also the most erotic American film I’ve seen in years. Portman’s character Nina is sexually repressed, and her director Thomas (played by Vincent Cassell) is trying to turn Nina’s frigid dancing into something more seductive. Yes, there is masturbation, the much talked about sex scene between Portman and co-star Mila Kunis and a fair share of physical groping. The old lady to my right gasped at least a dozen times. She covered her eyes during the sex sequences, and groaned in disgust at the gore.

Oh, did I mention this is a horror film? The disturbing imagery spans the gamut of scratches, cuts, bloody puncture wounds, to demonic transformations. There are genuine, jump out of your seat scares. Paintings come to life, and tattoos become animated. Aronofsky cleverly balances the crazy happenings with a heavy chunk of realism. The doc-style handheld cinematography, authentic performances and heavily researched details, make the horrific imagery that more horrific.

Alex Billington, First Showing

What I think Aronofsky has achieved with Black Swan is a mesmerizing and utterly brilliant fusion of two performance mediums – theater (specifically ballet) and film – in an extraordinary way that I believe we’ve never seen before. And it might take repeat viewings for everyone to fully understand and fall completely into that fresh cinematic world that he’s created… While I was already into it from the beginning, it was the third act that truly pushed me over the edge and gave me a rush I haven’t experienced in a while…

I can’t praise this film enough, and I can’t wait to watch it again. Even if anyone walks out a bit confused or emotionless the first time, let it soak in, see it again, give some extra time to process what you saw, and I’m sure it will grow on you. It’s sometimes dark, it’s often intense, but not too frightening (at least I thought). It’s a great psychological thriller and a wild ride, and I enjoyed every second.