Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

What's it about? Emotionally fragile ballet dancer Nina (Natalie Portman) is chosen to play the lead role in her company's production of Swan Lake, but becomes increasingly obsessed with perfecting her performance and getting in touch with her dark side in order to play the evil Black Swan.

Is it any good? A solid psychological thriller. Portman convincingly pulls off the look and movement of a trained ballerina (see video below) and duly walked off with the Best Actress Oscar for her immersion in the role. Visually it's impressive, with Nina's increasing paranoia and mental breakdown depicted as dream sequences, hallucinations and fantasies, leading to some unsettling moments in which we can't always be sure what is real or imagined, whilst the camera in the ballet scenes sweeps and moves around the dancers as if it is dancing itself. But all the technical and visual flourishes can't hide the fact that there's little depth to the characters and story is rather insubstantial and faintly ridiculous. So she goes a bit mad. And?

I don't trust you. What do others think? Generally well received, with Portman singled out for praise, although some real ballet dancers were rather critical about her and the film. And some fair criticisms have been made about the cliched story/characters, with many pointing out that, for all the hype and praise, it's not that different from the much maligned Showgirls and Burlesque .

Anything else I should know? A couple of obvious influences are Polanski's Repulsion , which features a similarly repressed character and The Red Shoes, a superior tale of ballet and obssession. They're both worth seeing. And any guys not keen on watching a soppy film about ballet might be interested to know that Aronofsky clearly understands the value of an erotic lesbian clinch in these things. Mmmmm....lesbian clinch.

What does the Fonz think? Yessir, I can ballet, but I need a special swan.

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