WBEZ | Natalie Portman http://www.wbez.org/tags/natalie-portman Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 'Black Swan': Mean Girls II http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/black-swan-mean-girls-ii <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/black-swan-1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 476px; height: 295px;" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-14/black-swan-1.jpg" /></p> <p>With the steady march of the &ldquo;Nutcrackers,&rdquo; dance becomes the popular girl-of-the-arts world in December. But this year, with Darren Aronofsky&rsquo;s film &ldquo;<a href="http://www.foxsearchlight.com/blackswan/">Black Swan</a>,&rdquo; she becomes the mean girl too: pop culture&rsquo;s narcissistic, competitive, take-no-prisoners witch.</p><p>Aronofsky&rsquo;s film starts out where &ldquo;<a href="http://seechicagodance.com/reviews/#review_229">The Nutcracke</a>r&rdquo; leaves off, in the naïve, safe cocoon of childhood. But Nina (Natalie Portman), the rising &ldquo;Swan Lake&rdquo; star at the film&rsquo;s center, is clearly one stuck kid. Though she&rsquo;s in her 20s, she lives with her mother and keeps her bedroom a cushy museum of stuffed toys. Then, surprise! She devolves&mdash;some might say evolves, I suppose&mdash;into a violent psycho whose efforts to grow up somehow entail self-destructive, drug-fueled sex with strangers.</p><p>Why must ballet be infantilized or demonized? Why is there no in-between?</p> <p>Here might be part of the reason. The heroines of both &ldquo;The Nutcracker&rdquo; and &ldquo;Black Swan&rdquo; are narcissists. Clara, seated on a throne in the second act, becomes the adored recipient of the performers&rsquo; blandishments. But where children&rsquo;s self-absorption is accepted and even indulged, it&rsquo;s despised in adults, especially women. Yet somatic narcissism comes with the territory of dance. Dancers live and die by the sword of the body.</p><p>Like &ldquo;The Nutcracker,&rdquo; &ldquo;Black Swan&rdquo; is a fairy tale, a fantasy&mdash;but a dark one. Its world is suffocating, entrapping. Mirrors and doppelgangers are everywhere while windows are few. Even when she&rsquo;s not in her apparently windowless home or at the studio, Nina lives in dark, enclosed places, a nightclub or the subway, where she and everyone else are shadowy reflections in its windows.</p><p>The film&rsquo;s claustrophobia is also built into the story line. The overriding question in &ldquo;Black Swan&rdquo; is Nina&rsquo;s future, her career&mdash;and what examples does she have for that? There&rsquo;s the bitter, damaged Beth (Winona Ryder), the former Swan Queen whom Nina displaces. There&rsquo;s Nina&rsquo;s bitter, damaged single mother (Barbara Hershey), a has-been who never was and who now lives vicariously through her daughter. And there&rsquo;s Nina&rsquo;s rival Lily (Mila Kunis), a vacant, profligate soul rebelling against ballet&rsquo;s anachronism and monasticism.</p><p>Yes, dancers do have a short shelf life. And like other artists, they can be ego-driven, competitive perfectionists and/or rebels. Still, no one comes even close to normalcy in &ldquo;Black Swan,&rdquo; except maybe the rehearsal pianist who storms out of the studio announcing, &ldquo;I have a life!&rdquo; That lack of the everyday separates this film from Aronofsky&rsquo;s &ldquo;The Wrestler,&rdquo; where the aging fighter/performer (Mickey Rourke) manages to connect with an aging stripper (Marisa Tomei). They have a life.</p><p>Unlike these body/sex workers, Nina is an artist, a Romantic hero(ine): isolated, more than a little mad, and sanctified by her sacrifices. With her tunnel vision, she can see only one way out of all the dead ends she envisions.</p><p>That makes for a great horror film, a true psychological thriller. But despite its echoes of the real world of dance, &ldquo;Black Swan&rdquo; ultimately distorts it. And distorts it predictably, pandering to our culture&rsquo;s prejudice against an art form of the body. We adore our games, our sports, governed by hard-and-fast rules and focused on winning. But movement to communicate emotion? It&rsquo;s easier to laugh at men in tights than come to grips with that idea.</p><p>Firmly rooted in our culture&rsquo;s Puritan origins, Aronofsky sees the theater as a demonic trap and the body as a tomb. At the same time, his feverish plot points and the camera&rsquo;s feverish onstage revolutions sensationalize dance. &ldquo;Black Swan&rdquo; revels in the life of the body, yes. It also pillories those who choose that life, setting them further than ever outside the bounds of the &ldquo;normal.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 14 Dec 2010 18:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/black-swan-mean-girls-ii Small films making big splashes: 'Tiny Furniture' and 'Black Swan' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/small-films-making-big-splashes-tiny-furniture-and-black-swan <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/black_swan_800.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Ballerina films might conjur images of pretty ladies twirling about in their pink tutus. But not if you&rsquo;ve seen director Darren Aronofsky&rsquo;s latest film, &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.foxsearchlight.com/blackswan/">Black Swan</a>.&quot; Since its premiere last week, reviews for &quot;Black Swan&quot; have secured its place in the category of films you either love or hate.</p><p>&quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot; turned to Hank Sartin to find out why this movie&rsquo;s ruffling so many feathers. Sartin edits the film section for TimeOut Chicago, and joins &quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot;&nbsp;regularly to talk film. <br /><br />Sartin and Alison&nbsp;Cuddy also reviewed &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.tinyfurniture.com/">Tiny Furniture</a>,&quot; which is playing at the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/">Music Box Theatre</a> in Chicago&rsquo;s Wrigleyville neighborhood.</p><p><em>Music Button: Banda de Turistas, &quot;La Maquina Favorita,&quot; from the release </em>La Maquina Favorita<em> (Nacional Records)</em></p></p> Fri, 10 Dec 2010 14:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/small-films-making-big-splashes-tiny-furniture-and-black-swan