Friday, January 14, 2011

Wild Turkey: Aronofsky's "Black Swan"

By Steve Evans

Nothing flatters an artist so much as an homage, which can sometimes be a fancy word for plagiarism. It was with this in mind that I saw Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” at the umpteenoplex last night with the lovely Claudia.

If “Black Swan” isn’t exactly a rip-off of that 1948 Technicolor wonder, “The Red Shoes,” directed by the brilliant team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, it’s still impossible to believe that a devout film student like Aronofsky hasn’t studied the Powell-Pressburger playbook with slavish attention. Homage is indeed a delicate term.

(Watch the trailer:

Give credit to “Black Swan” cinematographer Matthew Libatique for framing exquisite images that elevate this B-movie psycho-thriller a notch above the grindhouse exploitation fare that once unspooled in sleazy cinemas along Times Square, not too far from New York City‘s theater district and the world of the ballet that serves as the milieu for Aronofsky‘s crazed candygram.

Yes, “Black Swan” is a good-looking film. Yes, Natalie Portman delivers a heroic performance rife with eye-bulging fear, homicidal urges and masturbatory self-indulgence as she pursues perfectionism in the self-destructive way of the obsessive-compulsive personality. But my gripe has more to do with the constant sub-referencing and obvious influences from other, better, films that Aronofsky borrows to pump up this sad and rather obvious exploration of a delicate psyche in the Big City. I was led to believe that "Black Swan" was a fresh, vibrant work of original filmmaking.

What I got was a mash-up of “The Red Shoes,” cross-pollinated with some of David Cronenberg’s nastier visions and some genuinely repulsive metamorphosis sequences with jazzed-up CGI. Sprinkle liberally with Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” (1965), and you can witness head games galore in "Black Swan," though it's still just another trumped up tale of an artist driven to the brink by her own unquenchable thirst for perfection.

If originality was part of a filmmaker’s own quest for perfection, going to the movies would be a lot more fun.

Since the audience who saw “Black Swan” with us spent more time texting, talking and inhaling hotdogs slathered in pickle relish than in watching the show, it’s doubtful they caught even a fraction of the influences Aronofsky deploys in the creation of his own films. He‘s no better than Tarantino, that other post-modernist whose “inspirations” are all drawn from better artists.

On the way out of the cinema I overheard a woman tell her date that Aronofsky is “a true original.”

Oh, please. Shut up and eat your hotdog.

Cinema Uprising copyright c 2011 by Stephen B. Evans. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Cinema Uprising values comments and feedback from readers. Although we cannot reply to every message, we do read comments and take your thoughts into consideration as we continuously produce fresh content.