Black Swan Psychology Art vs. Science; Sex vs. Sexy: Which Sells Movies?

by Sophia Savage
December 21, 2010 4:42 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

- Black Swan offers fuel for an Art vs. Science debate. Consider these professional-opinion-posturings on Black Swan ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) and her mental state. Nadine Kaslow (Dept. of Psychiatry, Emory University) says: "It was intense and disturbing and fascinating and mysterious…What was a hallucination and what was real? When people are psychotic, it's difficult, even as a therapist, to know what's real and what's not."

Dr. Steve Lamberti (Assoc. Prof. of Psychiatry, University of Rochester) found: "It was poetic in a way, showing this transformation gone wrong…[and] does present a reasonable portrait of psychosis." However it is unlikely that Nina's alleged psychosis and eating disorder would go hand-in-hand: "People in psychosis are not in touch with reality. With eating disorders and OCD, they are too in touch with reality." Docs agree that it would be "unlikely" for Nina to perform while in a psychotic state, but acknowledge that human resilience could account for the character's actions.

- The Independent wonders if Sex Still Sells Movies (arguably one element of Black Swan's success thanks to Portman and Mila Kunis). Tim Walker looks at examples--such as Love & Other Drugs--for which Fox sent Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal "on a high-profile publicity round to talk about being naked, being naked together, and being naked together on film." The film's less-than-rousing box office and critical reaction suggest that sexy may have less appeal, not to mention the now-moot bonus-clause (i.e. Halle Berry's extra half-million for Swordfish's breast shot). The sex hook got play in the media, but may have been a turn-off at the box office.

Walker considers the likes of Blue Valentine, Chloe and Jennifer's Body, asking: "In a world saturated with free sexual imagery, then, what hope is there for sex as a selling point?" Film/TV producer Jacquie Jordan thinks Love & Other Drugs got it wrong by mis-marketing sex instead of comedy or story. "There's a difference between a movie being 'sexy' and pushing 'sex'...I don't think moviegoers go to movies for 'sex'. They can watch that at home. But 'sexy' sells in movies: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie? That's 'sexy'. In terms of Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, their appearing nude on magazine covers probably does more to sell the magazine than it does the film."

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  • Barbara W | December 22, 2010 1:57 AMReply

    Anne Hathaway's fan base were not interested in seeing her in nude scenes and did not come out in force to see the film which has not performed near its expectations.
    Nudity is overrated and not needed as a draw in movies because of the availability of porn. It's really not about art not in the US.

    Sadly,actresses who elect to do nudity only add new updates to sites like mr skin and such if they want to believe it's about the art they are only deluding themselves.

  • joy | December 22, 2010 12:57 AMReply

    Why sex hurted JENNIFER'S BODY? That movie has no nude scene, and its sex scenes are really tame. Even BLACK SWAN is more sexual.

    THE AMERICAN, THE READER and THE GIRL WITH DRAGON TATTOO have a lot of nude scenes and sex scenes, and those movies did enjoy box office success. But some authors just like to keep trashing sex.

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