Bird-Brained: Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan"

by robbiefreeling
December 2, 2010 4:50 AM
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If nothing else, Black Swan will certainly be the nuttiest movie to be mistaken for serious art in 2010, a true distinction as these last beleaguered twelve months of moviegoing saw contenders like Gaspar Noé’s harebrained Enter the Void and Andrei Konchalovsky’s utterly baffling The Nutcracker in 3D fall by the wayside. Darren Aronofsky has a leg up on his competitors: his horror movie about a good girl gone mad is set in the rarefied world of professional ballet (note the conspicuous exteriors of Lincoln Center, home to a film festival that, until The Wrestler, hadn’t been particularly accommodating to Aronofsky’s work), kibble for a gray-haired audience that likely passed over Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and (hee hee) The Fountain, but who help set the terms of the debate about what’s important or frivolous in our theaters and year-end awards shows. That crowd may well be stunned silent by what they find in here: this cracked fantasy is no The Red Shoes. Though perhaps they may share the reaction of the Philadelphia Film Festival audience I saw Black Swan with not long ago: waves of gut-busting laughter. Whether or not Aronofsky’s also laughing is an open question. Read Jeff Reichert's review of Black Swan.

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  • Michael David | December 28, 2010 10:39 AMReply

    Yawn. Yet another self-absorbed metrosexual who can't hide their disdain for Aronofsky and demands that everyone else share that opinion. The film started on 90 screens and is now on 1400, doing very well here and abroad. Anyone care to place a bet on the possibility that the reviewer is a frustrated director that begrudges Aronofsky's fame?

    What is particularly funny is this, two close friends attended the Philadelphia Film Festival showing and neither recalls any "waves of gut-busting laughter". A word to the wise: the internet has made the world a small place indeed, and if you're going to spin tall tales be ready to have your BS called. Consider it called.

  • clarencecarter | December 28, 2010 6:07 AMReply

    Dear Michael,

    Thanks for reading and for not only sending your thoughts to me via e-mail this morning, but also posting them on our blog.  You must really be upset that I didn't like BLACK SWAN!  I'm very sorry to hear that, though, I think if you re-read my review, you'd find that my feelings are much more complicated than pure dislike. See esp. the final paragraph.

    I feel that a couple of points are worth noting:

    (a) The film showed at least twice at the Philadelphia Film Festival, so your assumption that your alleged "two close friends" and I necessarily attended that same screening is faulty.  Given that your level of upset seems to be at a low boil, I'm going to assume you're an Aronofsky defender, and then further assume that your "friends" are as well, so would guess that they would have made efforts to attend the premiere, which I did not.  Feel free to call this BS, should you like, but as Ms. Portman's legs cracked and broke into bird shape, I heard peals of laughter all around me (including from my fiancee who is quite a fan of the film, in fact), though will make allowances for the possibility that the majority was merely my own. We were amongst an audience of hundreds, so it is possible that other portions of the theater reacted differently.  That said, several Reverse Shot colleagues reported similar outbursts at screenings outside of Philadelphia. I can find the times, dates and locations of those screenings so you can see if you had friends at all of them for further BS calling, if you like.

    (b) I don't demand anyone think anything of Aronofsky (that's not the point of criticism), and, in fact, find him a very complicated and fascinating figure, which, again, had you fully comprehended my review, you would find embedded in the text.  It seems you were moved to investigate my background pretty thoroughly, but you clearly didn't get far enough to find my quite positive review of THE WRESTLER from a few years back which ran on indieWIRE.  Take a look around for it.  I think it might, ahem, complicate your view of my feelings on Aronofsky.

    (c) I don't begrudge Aronofsky his 1400 screens at all (though as someone who's worked in film marketing - as you correctly noted in your e-mail from this morning - I should tell you that screen counts are not a full measure of success) but I don't think BLACK SWAN will aid in bringing about serious, wide-reaching political reform any time soon. My film GERRYMANDERING already has: 660,000 copies were sent to voters across the state of California in advance of the 2010 elections which helped pass a reform initiative strenuously opposed by the California Democratic party and Congressional Delegation, and we supplied materials and screened the film to assist in a similar initiative campaign in Florida (supported by Democrats, opposed by Republicans, for the record) which also passed. It's not that BLACK SWAN needs to affect change - I just think it's worth noting that sometimes the aims behind filmmaking can be different and "success" can be measured in a variety of ways.

    (Also, that you'd make the leap in illogic to think a first-time director who'd made a tiny documentary and took it into the marketplace without distributor would somehow mentally make the comparison between himself and a director who's been working for over a decade with big stars and major indie distributors behind him suggests you're digging a tad.)

    (d) I'm not sure where the idea that I'm a self-absorbed metrosexual comes from, though given all you seem to know (or think you know) about me, I'm assuming you also went and looked for some pictures.  That this is tres creepy, and borderline obsessive, goes without saying (perhaps you have some filmmaking and critical aspirations of your own?); that you'd take whatever evidence you found and apply the term "metrosexual" to it does a disservice to metrosexuals across the country.

    Sorry for the length, but since you went out of your way to make your feelings known in two different fashions, I thought you deserved a thorough response. As always, thanks for reading Reverse Shot.