Thursday, 10 February 2011

black swan (aronofsky; w. heyman, heinz, mclaughlin)

I feel more normal today.
Yesterday, walking back solo through Notting Hill, I felt less so.
There may have been many reasons for this, but one of them was Black Swan. Which I had just been to see.
Many years ago, I remember coming out of Venn Street Clapham Picture House having just seen Naked. The only Mike Leigh film that's ever touched a nerve. I felt edgy, watchful. The world that the film had conjured (as much Thewlis' performance as anything else) seemed all around me. In truth it was. I was young. I lived in London. Life seemed transient and precarious.
The circumstances under which one watches a film affect one's reaction to it.
Less than a day later it's easy to look back on Aronofsky's film and laugh at its gaucheness and cliche, and sheer over-the-topness.
Which should not be to forget that I also found myself laughing within the cinema, at Cassel's splendidly seedy manipulator, at the film's exaggerated Apollo/ Dionysis schtik, at a director pushing boundaries with glee.
But the laughter a day later is that of the critics who see the film as at best infantile, at worst, abusive. And it's not hard to see why.
A thick skin and you're insulated against the ridiculous.
Or some feathers, perhaps.
Because this is, in spite of its various absurdities, a visceral film. About things that in the moment seem real but from outside can look ridiculous. Creativity, neurosis, desire.
I don't live in New York and I've never liked ballet. I'm no gamine waif. But somehow, the film, with its remarkable camera work and its shrewd use of music and all the other tricks that it employs, succeeded in bowling me over.
I came out of the cinema and the world, this plush world I walked through, felt borderline repulsive; borderline homicidal.
It's a reaction. I almost used the word over-reaction. But that would be wrong. It was a reaction. To the director's cinematic will.
Art, as this most metaphysical of films (no reason metaphysicm should not also be visceral) relates, is more than the sum of its parts, and should not be afraid of crossing the line unto what might be perceived as ridiculousness.
The ridiculous is out there, and it doesn't do us any harm to touch it every now and again, to lose control, to strive to, or perhaps to actually achieve, the going-beyond the line. Drawn by ourselves or society or god or the universe or physics.
I feel normal now. But for a while last night I didn't. Which is almost entirely to the film's credit.

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