Ever see a movie that seemed to really, consciously, think it was profound? But it wasn’t? Sometimes that happens and the movie is still good. Donnie Darko springs to mind. The legion of Donnie Darko worshippers should read the previous sentences carefully. I liked Donnie Darko, just probably as much as YOU, you freak. It was good but I am not basing the rest of my life on it. I do not own any Donnie Darko pajamas or a lunchbox.
Another thing, how many good movies have you seen where you never, even for a second, forgot you were watching a movie? I forgot that when I was watching frigging Avatar. This movie I never actually got to that point. I was watching a movie, thinking about, initially how I liked they use of tight shots on people’s faces, on dance shoes etcetera. Then I was vaguely wondering how the obvious “split personality” concept was going to play out in this particular movie. And I was wondering when I was going to have time to do my laundry. I am out of socks.
I would like to say, because this movie is by Darren Aronofsky, that it is an ambitious failure, that it is a film that strives for some grand artistic purpose but falls short. I kept thinking about Persona and All That Jazz and wishing I were watching either. No film should ever let you think about another movie while you are watching. Afterwards, maybe but during, never.
As I noted the movie looks fine. It even has an odd claustrophobic feel sometimes, as if you are in the disturbed mind of a particular character. But for THAT to matter you have to care about the character. You just don’t, even though all the actors are all fine. Natalie Portman conveys fragility and makes you believe her as a dancer who may, or may not, be unraveling mentally. Barbara Hershey has moments in her role as Portman’s mother. She alternates between doting and crazed-stage mother effortlessly. The always excellent Vincent Cassel is as good at playing the lecherous impresario as is possible (although you have to wish he had been given more to do). None of their efforts matter.
But I sound too much like I am reviewing. It isn’t the aim. Most of the time you can watch a movie and say: “the acting sucks,” “my god, did they shoot this with a 1980s vhs recorder?” or “Did a third grader write this dialog?” None of these apply here. The acting is fine, the cinematography and direction don’t seem to be amiss. The film is evenly paced. The writing isn’t horrible, even if it is mundane. It just doesn’t work.
Perhaps it is that the subject of the unraveling mind of an artist has been done so many times or that it has happened so often in life as to make such a representation redundant. Nonetheless, Black Swan just doesn’t work and it is almost shocking coming from the director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler. Hmm, maybe it does seem like the director of The Fountain though.