3.0, United States/Canada

Black Swan

2010 / Darren Aronofsky > The original script for Black Swan played out like a detective story, but Aronofsky is better than that. He didn’t want to approach paranoia driven by perfection in conventional plot techniques, especially after having made his directorial breakthrough on the topic in Pi. What he does here is more contained than his previous efforts, showing a kind of maturation: The first hour of the film works as a set-up (with incidental horror cues that create just the right amount of tension), and then he lets the game loose. The last third of the film builds in an incredible crescendo that culminates in Natalie Portman’s finest performance since Closer. Like Giulietta Masina’s face told a thousand stories at the end of Nights in Cabiria, Portman is able to evoke the motions of a transformation simply by looking into the camera. Overall, it’s a solid, controlled effort hampered by some shallow characterizations (such as Mila Kunis’s character as a cliched foil) that puts an unfair burden of the film’s success on its finale.