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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Black Swan., 17 July 2011
This review is from: Black Swan [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Seeing a new film from Darren Aronofsky is always cause for excitement, and Black Swan is arguably his best to date, mixing elements of The Red Shoes, Repulsion and Suspiria to awesome effect. Reminiscent in many ways of his debut feature Pi, the film is a master class in genre cinema, with the tension and surreal madness being orchestrated to fever pitch. It's a real assault on the senses, bombarding the viewer with increasingly weird imagery and loud, frantic bursts of opera and classical music. Aronofsky walks a thin line between madness and genius in his movies, and you are never really sure which side he spends more time on. His previous films can justifiably be classified as being disturbingly brilliant, or brilliantly disturbed depending on your point of view, and Black Swan is no different. His movies are not what you might describe as being "feel good", but they all are capable of evoking reactions in the audience. That reaction may not always been what they want to feel, but it is always deliberate, and always well done. Aronofsky's films are not always well received (especially The Fountain, which was critically and commercially panned), but they can be respected for what they attempt.

The film revolves around Natalie Portman's Nina Sayers, a woman who has dedicated herself completely to the ballet and the art of dance, that it has stunted her development in many ways. She is cold and isolated, and has difficulty relating to people, while still retaining a purity and naivety that teeters between innocence and cowardice. She is afraid of everything, but has no idea why. Fueling this repression is Nina's mother Erica, a former dancer who achieved only moderate success, and now lives vicariously through her daughter. When it is announced that the star of the show, Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) has been made to retire, the remaining dancers all compete to win the coveted role of the Swan Queen in the first production of the season, a role that will elevate the dancer to fame. The movie hits its stride about 3/5 through, as Nina begins to change, both physically and mentally. She undergoes a form of mental torture that she subjects herself too, and this is where the genius and madness of Aronofsky shines.

Portman delivers what is arguably the best performance of her career, you pity her and you feel for her, but you are also frustrated and annoyed by her reluctance to embrace her opportunities. The actual dancing also plays a major role in the film, and Aronofsky approaches it in such a way that without wasting much time in lengthy explanations, you understand the logic of the ballet and its insulated world. The film looks fantastic on Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1) which looks every bit like it did in theaters. Filmed with a combination of digital cameras and Super 16, the stylized picture comes with a thick grain structure and restrained contrast levels.

Whites remain crisp and bright nonetheless, and the textured grittiness weirdly adds to the movie's grimly surreal theme on psychosis. Theres plenty of special features including Black Swan Metamorphosis (HD, 49 min) -- This three-part featurette is essentially a making-of doc that looks at the early stages of production and moves into the final phases with some digital touch-ups. A trailer, along with some interviews with the cast and Fox Movie Channel Presents (SD, 23 min) -- Which is a series of five promo pieces that originally aired on the Fox Movie Channel program called "In Character" grouped together, but appear separate in the bonus area. Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is a masterful psychological thriller set in the physically and mentally demanding world of ballet. It's a beautifully photographed but a creepy film that harkens to Roman Polanski's early works and features an enthralling performance from Natalie Portman. I highly recommend this.
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