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TIFF-ing It: Black Swan Review

Black Swan: Natalie Portman and cast bring it.

When I was in highschool, I used to volunteer at the Toronto International Film Festival.  At Roy Thompson Hall, I used to count people in the lineups and give out tickets to patrons.  A lover of film and socializing, it was a great opportunity to watch free movies and meet new people.  Back then, you could easily watch films and tackle a few celebrities if you so wished.  I mean, the after-party was held at The Bamboo (currently Ultra).  These days, it’s a much more glamourous affair, with a red carpet rolled out and legions of fans lining the block to catch a glimpse of their favourite star.  Securi-tay!!

I kind of casually hinted to the universe that I wanted to watch a few films during TIFF but negotiating a ticket is a Mission: Impossible sort of task, particularly to those screenings with early Oscar buzz.  To my delight, my PR friend A was wardrobe styling a few personalities and messaged me with a last-minute proposition to catch Black Swan.  Of course, I agreed (thanks universe!).

Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky is a psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman as ballerina Nina Sayers, a dancer relegated to the corps until the artistic director, superbly played by Vincent Cassel, forces the aging prima ballerina, Winona Ryder into retirement.  Faced with the stress of taking on the lead in Swan Lake, Portman’s fragile character succumbs to pressure and paranoia.  I don’t want to give away any additional spoilers only my take on the film.  The best word to describe the movie is intense (it is a thriller after all).  Set in the backdrop of ballet, the art direction is beautiful, the characters layered and ensemble performances strong.  While the film overall has moments that are a bit cliche, the audience loved it.  Aronofsky and cast received a standing ovation.

 Some highlights: 

  • Dance Sequences – I admit it.  I am a sucker for dance sequences and any kind of choreography.  The rigours of ballet though, are on another level.  The strength, persevere and pain that these dancers endure is to be admired.  Natalie Portmand and Mila Kunis seemed to do quite a bit of their own dancing.  Method.  Ouch.

Rodarte Spring 2009. I thought this image was the best representation of the feel of costumes in Black Swan.

  • Costumes by Rodarte – Those talented Mulleavy sisters created floaty costumes and open-weave gauzy knits for Black Swan.  My prediction:  a return of the legwarmer and resurgence of the bodysuit (this trend has been simmering with Ke$ha and American Apparel lovers, but I think it’s going to go full tilt again).  Watch out for it.
  • Winona Ryder – I should actually devote a whole post to Winona because I adore her.  Aronofsky introduced her as ‘the icon’ and admitted there wasn’t enough of her in the movie.

Dear universe, can you please put Winona in a proper movie? She is such a good actress. Hellooo!



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