On the surface, Darren Aronofsky's dreamlike, often disturbing film, is an interpretative depiction of the depraved depths artists will willingly navigate to reach the pinnacle of their field—in this case, New York City ballet stardom, and drug-induced Sapphic lovemaking. But upon closer (much, much closer, deeper, more detailed) inspection the underlying message of the Aronofsky’s cryptic tome—brilliantly acted by Natalie Portman and that girl from That 70’s Show and the movie where Nick Andopolis shows his junk--comes to light.
This is a film critical of New York’s imbalanced sense of self-importance, entitlement and arrogance in a post-Madoff, defiantly Bloomberg, never had-Cliff Lee world. Whereas art is most likely perfected when one can find the rare symbiosis of worlds dueling yet interminably entrenched in one another (this brings Albert Pinkham Ryder to mind, personally)--that in which it is organic vice another where everything seemingly defies the essence of the artistic- -the modern day Gotham isn’t so much opposed to culture as it is suffocating in a vacuum of its illusion.
It is fitting then for this film to be released at a time when the New York sports scene’s pomposity and child-like petulance is on full national display. Fresh on the heels of a postseason loss to Cliff Lee’s surprising Rangers from Texas (of all places), concurrent to the Lee family’s public rejection of the New York ethos, and just before its proudest football team architected a historic collapse not altogether un-reminiscent of 2008’s de-robed Wall Street emperors, New York is reeling.
And I haven’t even made mention of Lebron James’ mid-summer spurning of the Big Apple; the King who rejected the self-appointed kingmakers. So intoxicated by its own entitlement the city has been, for so long, that it finds itself now left wandering confused, alienated somewhere between curmudgeonly miser and peasant girl, trying despite its better judgment to invest in Amar’e Stoudemire and turn their sails to the the bluster provided by Humorcane Rex.
Contrast Nina Sayers to a prior role of Portman's set in New York (state), in Ted Demme's Beautiful Girls. There, her 13 year old Marty--the precocious and refreshingly forward neighbor of lead Timothy Hutton--is duel cast as a Dolores Haze (or if you prefer, Dolly, Lola, Lo, L, etc.) and the wind-nipped face of wisdom. Perhaps, more importantly, she represents the potential inherent in innocence uncompromised. In Black Swan, the message is that there are no longer any thoughts of innocence.
Likewise, New York is no longer the center of the sports universe it haughtily believes it wrought. That title, for now, belongs to the white swan unfurling its feathers 100 miles to the south.
Black Swan: A-
* Note: author has not yet viewed Black Swan. For the literal amongst you, this was a completely absurd parody.