Auteur Aronofsky: 'Black Swan,' in Theaters Print E-mail

Auteur Aronofsky: 'Black Swan,' in Theaters


When I saw "Pi," Darren Aronofsky's (above) feature debut, I walked out of the theater feeling like I had fallen out of the weird tree and hit every branch on the way down. But I climbed back up for "Requiem for a Dream" and for every movie since. Because getting mentally battered is best when it's done by a master.

Aronofsky's filmic S&M continues with "Black Swan." The story of an obsessive ballet dancer, played by Natalie Portman in what isn't so much Oscar bait as a giant neon arrow-shaped sign flashing "INSERT AWARD HERE," "Black Swan," while imperfect, is as intense a movie experience as I can remember.

After the somewhat-respite of "The Wrestler," Aronofsky has returned to his signature style. It's visually loud — every frame is packed, and the camera is rarely still. Add in that he likes to crank the volume to 11, and you leave the theater feeling like every sense has ridden a roller coaster that was built in hell, driven by The Stig, and with the Mad Hatter checking the seat belts. There were stretches in "Black Swan" when I forgot to breathe because I was too busy paying attention. For a movie that is nominally about, hello, ballet (and "Pi" was about MATH), that takes some skill.

It's getting harder to find directors with a signature style; it's a pleasure to find that Aronofsky not only still has his but uses it to inflict just the right kind of pain on his audience.

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