Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Director Darren Aronofsky brilliantly blends several genres to keep the audience as on their toes as the athletes we are observing. The surprise of not knowing which genre will be drawn from next, as well as the wonderful details of everyday ballet life add up to an unbearable tension. It is a huge achievement that in cinematic world where audiences are conditioned to see bigger and bigger torture scenes, Aronofsky can make an entire theatre audibly gasp and hide their eyes at real-life dancer wounds like a split toenail and a long hangnail.
Why these scares work is because of the wonderful sound design, creative and flawless CGI, and expert stalking camera work that thrusts us into the lead character's pointe shoes. Aronofsky forces empathy with techniques I haven't seen since Silence of the Lambs made us see through Clarice's eyes. The scene on the subway where the dirty old man comes on to Portman's character is reason enough for every man who wants to understand a woman to see this film.
Portman gives the best performance of her career, and lives up to the promise we all saw in LEON. Her baggage of growing up onscreen to be a competent, passionless performer is integrated seamlessly into this role and the theme of the movie: the masochism of being a female performer in a misogyinistic world.
The result is a sublime, frightening fairy tale that accurately captures the dog eat dog ballet world, what it's like to be a modern female artist constrained within misogynistic institutions like the acting and ballet world, and the transcendent freedom that artists feel only onstage as they lose themselves in the shamanism of channeling The Role of Their Lifetime.
Why we pay to watch them jump into the abyss for our voyeuristic pleasure is a whole other movie.
Give it a chance, go along for the ride, and AVOID THE TRAILER.