Note: I don’t normally write film reviews, but the film I just saw angered me in ways I have rarely experienced.
I just treated myself to a late night movie and boy am I sorry. I waste $12 routinely, but rarely does it make me as angry as having paid to see The Black Swan. I am truly amazed by just how much I hated a film I hoped to love.
The Black Swan is a mash-up of The Bad News Bears and a snuff film. It was disturbing that young men in the audience were laughing out loud like they were watching Daddy Day Care and just saw the dad get hit in the crotch. I saw guys in the early 20s high-fiving each other after the film and overheard one say that he had seen three times. I would be delighted if young men had fallen in love with a ballet film, but The Black Swan is no more about ballet than Yogi Bear 3-D is a reinterpretation of Kafka.
I some neither an elitist who does not appreciate popular culture or a populist who does not understand high art. My friends and Twitter followers know that I a man of diverse tastes. I love Jersey Shore, Alban Berg operas and Sarah Vaughan. I enjoy Tarantino, Scorcese, Woody Allen, Spkie Lee and the occasional tear-jerker. I have a subscription to the LA Philharmonic and have been known to see a Broadway show, three sets of live jazz and a Prince concert in less than two days after flying for ten hours.
The Black Swan is an incredibly manipulative exploitation film. It seemed like a film school homework assignment. I imagine the assignment was as follows:
Find a gentle subject like ballet or a lovable character like a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy and make a terrifying film out of those otherwise innocuous elements. You must satisfy this assignment by using the following elements gratuitously:
- Smashing things
- Spinning the camera
- Dub the sound of the main character breathing high in the mix
- Inaudible bass pops inserted in quiet scenes to portend doom
- Have the lights go out without reason
- Loud music
- Broken glass
- If you find is a sharp object, jab it repeatedly into the face or torso of someone
- Whenever there is a lull in the action, make blood flow from somewhere
- Lock your front door with multiple locks
- Break down a door
- And don’t forget that every time a second character enters a scene, you need a quick cut and for the protagonist to be startled
Natalie Portman is an impressive actress, but I care a lot more about characters in Glee than I did about her character in The Black Swan. I should have known that the film was a piece of schlock when it was advertised as a “psycho-sexual thriller” – doth protest too much? That’s right, The Black Swan is all the things teenagers like without getting any of them right. This is a slasher film with tutus and Tchaikovsky performed by Ozzie Osbourne. The violence was gratuitous (spoiler alert: especially since it was all imagined).
I should have gone to see Yogi Bear 3-D. I’ll catch the squeakuel!
PS: I could be wrong.
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.