Monday, December 13, 2010

The Conversations: Darren Aronofsky (Part II)

Put on your ballet slippers and dance on over to The House Next Door, because Part II of The Conversations: Darren Aronofsky, covering the recently released Black Swan, is live! If you’ve haven’t seen the film, you shouldn’t even open the link. (Spoilers abound, as usual.) But if you have, well, it’s the kind of movie that’s sure to inspire debate. Did I like Black Swan? Did Ed Howard? You’ll have to read the piece to find out. For now, I’ll say only that it was a fun film to discuss, and I’m eager to hear the thoughts of others about the movie.

So head on over to The House Next Door. If you missed it, here’s the link to Part I.

Click here for an archive of The Conversations.


Sam Juliano said...

Well, I read your typically massive conversation at a prep in school today, and again both of you have made readers (or at least me) feel grossly ill-equipped and insufficient. That's what happens when you are in the shadow of writing and perceptions on this level. I am no fan of this film, but this unintentional rhetorical intimidation has persuaded me to see the film a second time this week. There is no question that the "Conversations" series is the finest ongoing project in the entire blogosphere. But you certainly don't need me to tell you that.

I went in armed with the following:

I adore Aronofsky
I regard THE FOUNTAIN as a masterpiece.
I adore Tchaikovsky.
I venerate Powell and Pressberger.
I greatly respect Natalie Portman
I am ravished by Clint Mantsell
I generally love films about dancers
I enjoy being with the majority when I can
I had almost made my mind up before entering the theatre.

But then something happened that left me aghast and unable to react. The film left me cold, and failed to resonate like his other films, due to careless narrative structure, unconsumated metaphorical underpinnings, and a mean-spirited examination of character that rang as false as disposable slasher films. So what are all this dazzling insights and a rare conformidity of opinion by two of the net's heaviest hitters? Yeah there are a few dissenters like the great Jon Lanthier,(and to a lesser extent the multi-talented Marilyn Ferdinand) but by and large those who dislike this film seem to have watched something completely different from those who are clearly ravished on a number of levels.

I am perplexed and even maybe disappointed with my own stand here, but this Conversations installment has done something that no one or nothing else can.

It has convinced me to return to the theatre pronto.

Jason Bellamy said...

Sam: Very tardy (work, holiday travel) in logging in to say thanks for your kind words.

For what it's worth: I found Black Swan even more rewarding on a second visit. I think one of the movie's obstacles is that you can't quite tell what movie it is until it's over.

I won't go so far as to predict you'll fall in love with it. But I suspect you'll find more than you did the first time.

Black Swan is one of those movies that comes along each year that causes its supporters to wonder what it's detractors are missing, and it's detractors to wonder how anyone could support it. (A Serious Mind had a somewhat similar effect, as Coen movies tend to do.)

Anyway, I'll be interested to hear if your opinion changes at all.

Sam Juliano said...

Thanks very much for that Jason, and yeah I do hear ya on the hectic activities as of late.

Your prediction has panned out precisely as you figured. I liked the film a bit more this second time around, particularly reveling in some of Matthew Libatique's arresting compositions, and respecting more than ever Portman's strong work. I seemed to be more imersed in the story too, but I guess that's to be expected in a repeat viewing. I still had some issues with metaphorical implications of the horror underpinnings, but at least this time around I saw what was coming and processed better in large part because of the insights expressed at The Conversations (which after all is a major worth to be derived from such great writing).

Jake said...

I just now got around to this because I kept debating writing more about this movie because I'm still trying to get to the bottom of what I think works and doesn't. Then I had a go and saw this:

"Maybe it was all that White Swan/Black Swan split-personality stuff, but as Black Swan ended I found myself confronted by two outwardly identical but attitudinally opposed thoughts: "That was something... (?)" and "That was something... (!)." In other words, I can't yet tell you exactly what Black Swan is, exactly what it means to me, or exactly when the film is genius and when it's trite, but I can tell you that it got under my skin, that it's powerful in sum, if not incessantly, and that I expect its spell will linger."

Jesus, you summed it up so well. Writing about this movie is a bitch, because it walks some weird line between masterpiece and drivel I didn't know existed until I watched Enter the Void. But ultimately, I think the film works with its cliché the way The Wrestler did to make something beautiful and unique. I think that's what secured it on my top 10. It was just to powerful to ignore.

Adam Zanzie said...

Aw man. Jason, Ed, how do you guys do it? I just got back from seeing this movie today and your discussion over it is, quite simply, the discussion to end all discussions.

Jason Bellamy said...

Finally jumping back into comments ...

Sam: Glad you gave it another chance. Thanks for reporting back. As has become my default explanation, Black Swan is really a film you need to see all of before you understand what you've seen. So it improves on repeat viewings, in my experience.

Jake and Adam: Thanks much for the kind words. It means a lot to both me and Ed. We love doing The Conversations as an exercise -- but it means a lot more to have thoughtful readers who appreciate the series. Many thanks!!