I’ve avoided writing my review of Darren Aronofsky’s “psycho-sexual thriller” until I had a bit of time to get over the intense euphoria I experienced while watching the film. It has now been over a week – but I still get trembles of excitement when I think back on watching it. Simply put, this is the best film of the year – and quite possibly one of my favorite films of all time. It is sexy, scary, inspiring, beautiful, thrilling, insanely intense, and more than anything, brilliant. I’ve never before wanted so badly to turn right back around and watch the movie again. Even writing this now is getting me excited. This movie is like a drug and I want more now!
Natalie Portman is a lock for a nom and should be the front runner for her role as the beautiful ballerina Nina Sayers. She studied dance for more than a year for the role and although I’m certainly no ballet expert, she seems to have gotten it down. But what is so truly incredible about her performance is the vulnerability she projects. At the beginning of the film, Nina is so timid she barely whispers her words. The quite literal transformation she undergoes is only that much more rewarding because of where she starts. Kudos to both Portman and Aronofsky for so successfully bringing us along on Nina’s ride.
Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey turn in career performances and Vincent Cassel nails the dynamic aspects of the villain/hero in his director character maybe better than anyone. I had previously lauded Roger Deakin’s cinematography in True Grit as good enough to finally win him the Oscar. In comparison, that movie’s western plains are a softball. Here Matthew Libatique’s camera becomes a character pirouetting on stage alongside the dancers. It is rhythmic and hypnotic and I’ve never seen anything like it. The decision to shoot handheld so close to the characters adds both an intimacy and suspense that is simply brilliant. Up close with Nina, whatever is right over her shoulder is right over yours as well – a terrifying effect manipulated here to perfection.
It is a very good year for cinema and the best picture category has some strong offerings. I still have little doubt that The Social Network will win top honors (and early signs are only making that look more likely). That doesn’t bother me at all. Black Swan is my year’s best picture and no lack of recognition can detract from my extraordinary experience of watching it for the first time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go watch it for my second.