Darren Aronofsky’s ballerina fantasia “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Winona Ryder (!), premiered at the Venice Film Festival to shrieks of glee from the critics, though not all for the same reason (there’s at least one claim that it’s more good-bad than an actual triumph). A few samples:
“Every film festival benefits hugely from a strong opening film, and they don’t come a lot stronger than Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller set in the world of New York ballet. Powerful, gripping and always intriguing, it also features a lead performance from Natalie Portman that elevates her from a substantial leading actress to major star likely to be lifting awards in the near future… [Arofofsky’s] a director with a taste for the flamboyant and over-ripe – qualities that serve the narrative handsomely.” —David Gritten, Telegraph
“Alternately disturbing and exhilarating, this dark study of a mentally fragile performer derailed by her obsession with perfection is one of the most exciting films to come out of the Hollywood system this year.” —Mike Goodridge, Screen Daily
“Resembling a ‘Red Shoes’ on acid, ‘Black Swan’ takes the idea of giving one’s all for art to a morbid extreme. Applying the gritty handheld technique he successfully employed in the working class environs of ‘The Wrestler’ to the rarefied domain of classical ballet, Darren Aronofsky swooningly explores the high tension neuroses and sexual psychodrama of a ballerina on the brink of simultaneous triumph and breakdown.” —Todd McCarthy, indieWIRE
“Though the director never immerses us as deeply inside Portman’s head as he did Mickey Rourke’s in ‘The Wrestler,’ the latter third of ‘Black Swan’ depicts a highly subjective view of events that calls to mind the psychological disintegration of both ‘Repulsion’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby.'” —Peter Debruge, Variety
“Portman has never been so cannily cast, nor so cunningly exposed, on screen.” —Guy Lodge, In Contention
“‘Swan’ is an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what’s so good about it. You might howl at the sheer audacity of mixing mental illness with the body-fatiguing, mind-numbing rigors of ballet, but its lurid imagery and a hellcat competition between two rival dancers is pretty irresistible. Certain to divide audiences, ‘Swan’ won’t lack for controversy, but will any of this build an audience? Don’t bet against it.” —Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter
“Black Swan” hits US theaters December 1st.