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Black Swan (Blu-ray Review)

8 Apr, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

Box Office $106.8 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.
Stars Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder.

Watching someone slowly lose her mind shouldn’t be this much fun.

In Black Swan, ballerina Nina (an emaciated Natalie Portman in her Oscar-winning performance) lands the role of her life as the lead in Swan Lake. But she’s pushed hard on all sides, from her intense director (Vincent Cassel), her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey, reminiscent of an early-stage Mommy Dearest) and a rival dancer (a beyond sexy Mila Kunis). Along with her own single-minded dedication to the work, the pressure proves to be too much, and we’re witness to the inevitable physical and mental breakdown.

Horrific visions come to life, sores spring up on her body, and as opening night approaches, Nina — and the audience — can’t get a grip on reality.

Is any of this really happening? Or is all of it in her sick mind? Either way, that constant sense of foreboding probably is going to prove accurate.

Few movies get into the pores of the characters like Black Swan. Nearly every shot is claustrophobic, keeping the audience from catching its breath and contributing to that sense that something is very, very wrong here. And don’t adjust your HDTV settings: Shot almost like a documentary, this isn’t meant to be the sharpest of video presentations, with plenty of purposeful snow and grain.

From as complex as insight into the cinematography to as simple as Portman rewriting “whore” on a mirror, the three-part making-of documentary “Black Swan: Metamorphosis” is the gem of the bonus features. Particularly enjoyable is the step-by-step visual effects segment, walking us through the transformation of ballerina to swan. You discover how much more makeup work than computer graphics went into telling the horror elements of this film, but that a little computer work went a long way.

Shorter featurettes follow the production and costume designs, which are fine for what they are. But a featurette about ballet itself is much too short and represents a missed opportunity to delve deeper into the world on which this story is centered. Other featurettes profile Portman and director Darren Aronofsky (with two others containing discussions between the two), Winona Ryder, Cassel and Hershey.

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