Natalie Portman stars in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, a mix of madness, sex, gore, and ballet that opened the 2010 Venice Film Festival. Reviewers have generally had good (or great) things to say about Portman’s performance as a ballerina on the verge, but many have found Aronofsky’s handling of the horror element less than satisfactory.
The screenplay is credited to Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz.
Black Swan opens in the US (via Fox Searchlight) on Dec. 1.
“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 in The Hollywood Reporter.
I’ve also heard from folks at Venice who think Black Swan is a junky horror show and [Natalie] Portman way too strident. Me, I’m of two minds about a movie that wants to be a nail-ripping thriller and a statement on an artist’s unholy communion with her role. It’s reminiscent of older, better movies: the late-’40s backstage dramas A Double Life (Ronald Colman plays Othello, becomes fatally jealous of his actress ex-wife) and the classic ballet melodrama The Red Shoes; and of films about tender, troubled psyches in the films — I won’t say which ones — of Roman Polanski, Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg and David Fincher. Black Swan also takes a view of women that might kindly be described as old-fashioned.
Richard Corliss in Time.
Black Swan is a wholly engrossing, almost unbearably tense drama about a fairly mundane thing: backstage anxiety in the performing arts. Countless movies have addressed the same subject, but I feel safe in saying none have [sic] addressed it in quite this way. Aronofsky, working from a screenplay by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz, shows a knack for combining genres in a most unsettling fashion. Here you’ll find psychological thrills, body horror, sexual awakening, symbolic self-discovery, hallucinatory trickery, and the terrifying calf muscles of ballet dancers, all in one movie.
Eric D. Snider at Cinematical.
Thoroughly outrageous at all times, Aronofsky’s film is certainly watchable, though his inability to see a stop without pulling it out perhaps lessens the impact after a while. There are some scary moments and a queasy, all-permeating sense that something evil and uncanny is just about to jump on, or conceivably out of, the lead character. This is Nina, the fragile but brilliant dancer played superbly by Natalie Portman, who perfectly suggests the neurotic dancer’s discipline and repression of self.
Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian.
Image: Fox Searchlight
George Clooney thriller The American reviews
George Clooney stars in Anton Corbijn’s The American, in which he plays a hitman about to quit his profession. While on assignment (and in hiding) in a Italian village, he falls for a good-looking, kind-hearted local prostitute (Violante Placido).
The American has been compared to the Matt Damon vehicle The Bourne Identity. I’m not sure if anyone has compared it to Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le samouraï, which starred Alain Delon as a cold-hearted hitman.
Adapted by Rowan Joffe from Martin Booth’s novel A Very Private Gentleman, The American has received mixed reviews (update: And would do tepid business). Below are a few samples.
Distributed by Focus Features, The American opens in the United States today.
Clooney, particularly earlier in his career, was often compared to Humphrey Bogart, and his role here is reminiscent of Bogart’s hardened criminal Roy Earle from “High Sierra,” except that he’s about as emotive as a brass doorknob.
At some point in their careers, most male actors want to play (a) Hamlet, and (b) a hit man. I hope that Clooney has gotten “b” out of his system. Peter Rainer in The Christian Science Monitor.
Yet “The American” has its own insinuating touches — an obsession with small details, a patient interest in supporting characters, a vaguely weary whiff of regret.
It announces its intentions from the beginning, an inexorably slow tracking shot to a mountain cabin. Absolutely nothing happens. Yet absolutely anything could happen. Stephen Whitty, The New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Cool, understated, stripped to essentials, “The American” centers upon the sort of American antihero—the laconic cowboy, the perennial outcast, the reform-minded gangster making one final heist, the bad man seeking redemption—who used to appear regularly onscreen but has been pushed aside of late by action heroes and comic vulgarians. … It’s an atmospheric, sympathetic piece of work, even if not one destined to speak to too many people in this day and age. Todd McCarthy at indieWIRE.
But Clooney, without employing any of his usual bag of tricks, nonetheless makes Jack matter to us, and lets us see this troubled man’s unspoken dreams. Late in the film there’s a silent sequence where, remarkably, we seem to see him age before our eyes. “The American” is a thriller that isn’t out to thrill, but to quietly ensnare — and it does so. Moira Macdnald, The Seattle Times.
The new George Clooney film “The American” is pretty. It’s also pretty dour, even with all the luscious Italian Abruzzo mountain scenery, used here as a backdrop to the tale of an old school, one-at-a-time weapons manufacturer trying to get out of the business he’s in, by way of One Last Score.
The movie exhibits a fastidious, nearly self-parodic sense of visual control. … “The American” is in color, but its mood is gray. Michael Phillips, Tribune Newspapers.
Adapted by Rowan Joffe from Martin Booth’s novel A Very Private Gentleman, The American is far more concerned with the subtle shifts in Jack’s mood than with kinetic action. In one of Jack’s philosophical discussions with Father Benedetto, the priest notes, “You are American. You think you can escape history — you live for the present.” Though the comment hints at Jack’s desire for redemption, it could also serve as a comment on North American moviegoers, who seem to only desire instant gratification. Lee Ferguson, CBC News.
Photo: The American (Giles Keyte/Alliance Atlantis)
Juliette Binoche vs. Gérard Depardieu: Round 2
“Please can you explain to me what the secret of this actress is meant to be? I would really like to know why she has been so esteemed for so many years. She has nothing. Absolutely nothing!”
“She is nothing. Compared with her, Isabelle Adjani is great even if she’s totally nuts. Or Fanny Ardant – she is magnificent, extremely impressive. But Binoche? What has she ever had going for her?”
The “nothing” actress in question is Academy Award and Cannes Film Festival winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Certified Copy), who is also well known for her liberal views and outspoken criticism of opportunistic politicians such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The one unable to grasp Binoche’s appeal is Academy Award nominee Gérard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac), as quoted in the Austrian magazine Profil (by way of the English-language translation found in Lizzy Davies’ article in The Guardian).
And poor Isabelle Adjani, this year’s César winner for Skirt Day. Talk about a backhanded compliment…
Back to Binoche: When Empire magazine asked the Three Colors: Blue actress about the possible reasons for Depardieu’s remarks, she explained that “I didn’t feel hurt because I didn’t feel it was related to me, that it was something going on for him.”
Binoche then wondered, “Is it jealousy, because it is too much success, or is it Certified Copy because the film is provocative in a weird way?”
She added that Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy focuses on the female character, and she knows “some men have a hard time with this film because [Kiarostami] chose to give the woman more space.”
The Depardieu-Binoche rift has provided a good deal of publicity for Certified Copy, which opens in the UK on Sept. 3.
Photo: Certified Copy (MK2 Productions)
Julianne Moore & Vanessa Redgrave Israeli Settlements’ Boycott
Theodore Bikel, Mira Nair, Julianne Moore, Harold Prince, Vanessa Redgrave, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Sondheim, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Kushner, Mandy Patinkin, Eve Ensler, Jennifer Tilly, Edward Asner, Wallace Shawn, and James Schamus are some of the 150 American and British stage, screen, and television personalities that have signed their names in support of the Israeli actors, directors, and playwrights’ boycott of Israeli settlements.
On Aug. 27, dozens of Israeli artists decided they would not perform in Ariel, one of the largest of West Bank settlements.
“We wish to express our disgust with the theater’s board’s plans to perform in the new auditorium in Ariel,” they wrote in a letter to the
boards of Israel’s repertory theaters. “The actors among us hereby declare that we will refuse to perform in Ariel, as well as in any other settlement. We urge the boards to hold their activity within the sovereign borders of the State of Israel within the Green Line.”
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, is quoted as stating that “we hope that the strong show of solidarity by Americans in response to these brave Israelis will help spark a new conversation in both countries, one that acknowledges that the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal by every measure of international law, contribute to the daily violation of human rights of Palestinians, and are a major obstacle to a just peace in the region.”
The statement of support and list of signatories, which is regularly updated, can be found at Jewish Voice for Peace.
Check out Theodore Bikel’s Legitimizing an Obstacle to Peace