Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dealing With Expectations: Black Swan

It's funny how one film, The Wrestler, changed my entire opinion on Darren Aronofsky. While I found Requiem of a Dream and The Fountain to be well-acted and entertaining films, I thought they were both held back by Aronofsky's seemingly incessant need to step in with distracting visual trickery. Too often he felt compelled to awe the audience himself, as oppose to letting the story and the characters do it for him. This is particularly obvious in Requiem which had too many moments that felt like a techno music video for the Kronos Quartet. But after watching Aronofsky take a few steps back with his masterful 2008 film The Wrestler, I think he finally found out how to trust that his characters can bring the story home without having to step in. Alas, the trailer for Aronofsky's latest film has arrived...

On first impression, Black Swan seems like the old Aronofsky. This is certainly more visual than The Wrestler, but with such a good cast, I'd find it hard to think that he hasn't learned to let the actors do their job. I know some were turned off by how much of a psychological thriller this film seems to be; to which my response would be: Really? You were really interested in a straight film about ballerina competition!? I love the concept of a rivalry leading to obsession, and I think we've all been waiting for Natalie Portman to tackle that big adult role, even though she still has a twelve-year-old's voice. (NOTE: Her role in Closer doesn't count, since part of the charm of her character in that film was the fact that she was so precocious.)

But back to what I was saying about expectations. Before The Wrestler, I may have dismissed this trailer as another attempt by Aronofsky to recreate Kubrick without realizing how much Kubrick cherished character development. After The Wrestler, though, Black Swan is now the 2010 film that I can wait for the least. Part of that has to do with my ten-year crush on Portman, and my desperate hope that she will turn into the great American actress that I know she can become. Most of it, though, has to do with my new found faith in Darren Aronofsky. Imagine the visual savvy of The Fountain mixed with the character development of The Wrestler. Only with a mixture like that can you approach the level of a Kubrick, and Black Swan may be the film that pushes Aronofsky over the hill and into the great filmmaker territory that peers like Paul Thomas Anderson and Alexander Payne have already approached.


Simon said...

I've always liked his visual style...this is just me, but if I don't like a story or a character or an actor, at least I have something nice to look at that'll get me to the next bearable scene, y'know?

I think this'll be really good. I hope, I mean.

James Colon said...

Yeah, I've never had a problem with his visual style, in particular. I just never cared for how he let it derail the narrative at moments. And I agree with you, with a film like 'Avatar', where the characters & screenplay are pretty "meh", it helps when it's a stunning thing to look at. That said, I never thought any of Aronofsky's characters or stories were needing the bombardment.

That said, I'm still awaiting 'Black Swan' with baited breath.