Can Darren Aronofsky go 5 for 5? Black Swan trailer is a bit rocky…

Posted on 23 August 2010 by ShepRamsey

I’ve gone off more than a few times about how weak this summer has been for movies.  Of course there were exceptions like Toy Story 3 and Inception, but on the whole, things have been mighty lackluster.  There wasn’t much to speak of in the first part of the year, either, save for Scorsese’s Shutter Island (okay, so it’s been a great year for Leonardo DiCaprio).  But the first part of the year is generally regarded as the dumping ground anyway, so there’s no real “disappointment” to be had there.

There’s still the last part of the year to be had and this begs the question, will we be saved from the drab offerings of the year-so-far or will it all just fizzle out and wind up like the same year we had exactly one decade ago?  I’m hoping for the best, but my expectations are muddled.  Looking at a list of the coming months’ offerings, it still looks like kind of a mixed bag.  Some films I’m excited to see, while most I suspect I’ll wind up simply feeling obligated to see.  Trailers are starting to roll out, however, at which time I’ll be able to make more sound judgments.

As I eagerly await a trailer for the Coen brothers’ reworking of True Grit, I find myself all at once excited, engaged, intrigued, confused, bored, and a bit put off by the recently bowed trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.  And with all that going on, one thing’s for sure—it’s Aronofsky, alright.

Now, I’m no internet curmudgeon; I like Darren Aronofsky—a lot.  The Fountain was on my list of the top ten movies of the decade, and I’m a great admirer of his other films, as well.  That being said, I’m certainly interested to see this new endeavor of his.  But it’s coming off a bit perplexing.  If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, here it is right below:

So yeah.  Interesting looking ballet-set surreal horror movie.  I’m in.  There are, however, a few striking annoyances that I have to get off my chest.  I know, I know; they can’t all be winners, and not every movie is going to be *perfect* but I have a platform to nitpick and complain, and that is what I shall do.  This isn’t a review, and I’m not jumping to any conclusions about the film; I’m just…wary.

1.  I’m starting to get really sick of the handheld cameras.

The way this movie appears to be shot is simply aesthetically unappealing to me.  Now, I’m well aware that the reason of why a movie is shot the way it is shot amounts to far more than simply pleasing aesthetics.  I get that.  Each shot should be captured in a way that is beneficial to the moment, the scene, the director’s objective, and overall tapestry of the film itself.  But—and maybe it’s just me—Aronofsky’s handheld camera evokes a docudrama feel where his imagery suggests a sleek surreal nightmare.  The combination of the two creates a low-budget-in-a-bad-way amateurish grime that doesn’t really do much for me.

This is more wariness than anything else, though, because I fully acknowledge that there’s certainly a way to do this right.  Case in point:  David Lynch’s Inland Empire, another surrealist nightmare-film which was shot on what I’m fairly certain was the cheapest digital camera Lynch could find—perhaps on his cell phone?  This is a film that has that purpose of which I speak.  As a film about the film industry, its surrealism has its foundation in Lynch’s objective to keep consistently blurry the line between reality and fiction.  And with this in mind, he coyly subverts the entire cinematic process; every detail from the technical to the narrative is properly askew.  Ah, Lynch, you’re beautiful!

And of course, I haven’t seen Black Swan yet, so it’s entirely unfair of me to judge the merits of the cinematography based solely on a two-minute trailer.  After all, he used the same style for The Wrestler, and had fantastic results with it.  However, I don’t think I’m jumping to conclusions to suggest that Black Swan and The Wrestler are very different films, and he’s still using the same method.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t want to see Aronofsky turn into one of those directors who finds some cool new technique several years into his career that he likes and refuses to ever do anything but again—like Michael Mann and his HD cameras, like Robert Zemeckis and his motion capture, like James Cameron and his sucking.

2.  Mila Kunis?  Really?  She’s terrible.

Okay, so this complaint isn’t really as high-brow as the last one, so I’ll just make it brief.  I know Natalie Portman is the lead in this, and I like her just fine; she’s a very talented actress.  But Mila Kunis?  I have a habit of automatically discounting the credibility of any movie that I see has her in it.  And I’m not trying to be an asshole, I promise—it’s just how my brain works and I can’t stop it!  Everyone just has a small handful of people that just bug them—you can’t explain it, they just do. For me, one of those people is undoubtedly Mila Kunis.  Thankfully she’s not in that much, so I don’t have to deal with her too often.  But still.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall sucked for a lot of reasons, and I continually tell myself that they were all her fault (though they weren’t).  I was into the Book of Eli trailer until I saw that she was in it.  And That 70s Show?  Well, that seals it right there, doesn’t it?  That aside, she doesn’t look that irritating in this movie, but we still didn’t see much of her in the trailer, so it’s still a toss-up.  Here’s hoping she doesn’t bring this thing down.

3.  ENOUGH with the girls-making-out shit!

Alright, I know my sexual orientation will be called into question over this, but seriously—what the hell?  Aronofsky has more than displayed a capacity for genuine complexity in his characters but is he seriously a subscriber to the same absurd notion that most guys everywhere have that all fights between girls end in making out?

In the midst of a heated rivalry, the brief moment in the trailer shows us one girl storming over to the other and starting to make out with her.  Now, I’m not coming down on this movie for its lack of realism in this aspect because—as I’ve already established—realism doesn’t seem to be appropriate for this movie.

But am I really supposed to believe that at the heart of every rivalry is a burning desire to make out?  Can you imagine if Salieri and Mozart, at a peak of music-fueled tension, just ran face-first at one another trying to lick each others’ throats?  If you honestly think there isn’t a hint of masturbatory delusion here, then I truly hope you wind up being right…but I’m not holding my breath.  And even if my thoughts aren’t at all how it’s portrayed in the movie, and it’s potentially a better movie than what this suggests, it’s still how they’re choosing to sell it, and it’s pretty shameless.  A lot of lonely guys are going to wind up getting their rocks off on this, regardless—let’s hope it at least has a point.

And don’t make me jump on the David Lynch defense again.  The relationship between Betty and Rita in Mulholland Drive was rooted in actual love, not catfight fetishism.

So there it is.  I have some grievances, but I’m still hoping they turn out to be nothing.  There’s a lot of stuff I like, too.  For instance, I love the music, but that’s not too unusual for an Aronofsky film, as his frequent collaborator, Clint Mansell, is one of the most talented guys in the business today.  I also like the note of surrealist horror with which the movie seems to be playing out—not at all what I was expecting when I initially heard the premise.  This could still be pretty damn good.

Trailers are designed to give us a taste and make us react, be it in a good way or a bad way.  Black Swan certainly looks like an interesting psychological horror-thriller—perhaps something in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby, a terrific horror movie which I nevertheless find difficult to appreciate thanks to Roman Polanski and his stupid penis (which sounds like a great band name, doesn’t it?).  I guess my key reservation amounts to this: if Darren Aronofsky’s name wasn’t attached, would I have completely dismissed this?  Gonna need to think about that one…                  

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