Saturday, March 5, 2011

Oscars II

This series of posts is inspired by the recent Academy Awards. But I should warn you, when I watch the awards and think of the films my mind wanders in its own unique... how shall I put it ... direction.

This explains why I found Natalie Portman's walk up the stairs to the stage so very moving, and why this is the highlight of the Best Actress Award as far as I'm concerned. It reminds me of when I was pregnant with my first baby - Ms. Portman's partner's gesture reminds me of my own darling Mr. CB's gentle care as I made my way up and down the stairs to and from our tiny apartment. Naturally, I was HUGE in my last trimester, would never have fitted into any evening gown of any description, was often in a foul mood, and spent a lot of time worrying. But that's another story.

So these are my thoughts on "Black Swan" - a window into my strange imagination.

Firstly, I should mention that I saw "Black Swan" with my father, and that in itself merits an award. I knew that my dad wasn't enjoying himself, and I knew he wouldn't like the film. But he needed to see it for his work, and my mother refused to see it, so I joined him. My father worries about me during violent scenes (he forbade me from seeing "Kill Bill" years ago and was terribly disconcerted when I told him that I loved it). So every time something vile occurred in the film, which was quite often, I could feel him trying to stop himself from embracing me protectively and insisting that I leave the cinema. The lesbian sex scene was uncomfortable for completely different reasons, it just felt so wrong to be sitting next to my dad as those two girls went for it. For what it's worth, heterosexual sex scenes are just as uncomfortable, but that was no consolation at the time.

Secondly, I have a history of EXTREME EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT to ballet stories and films. I never took a ballet class in my life and never will, but the world of the ballerina has always intrigued me.

My friend O. and I (my Russian schoolfriend who would eventually introduce me to Mr. CB, who is Russian too) had a huge crush on Baryshnikov for many years. Needless to say, when Mr. CB first introduced himself to me and I heard his Russian accent, and he told me that he had studied ballet as a boy... well.... need I say more?

But I digress.

So maybe you've seen the film "The Turning Point"? It was written by Arthur Laurents. Or "White Nights"? Written by James Goldman. O. and I did, many many times.

And of course you've seen "Flashdance," please tell me you've seen "Flashdance." The scene at 4:20 in this video made me immediately tear all of my sweatshirts and practice pirouettes, and the scene in 8:50 is a favourite.

Yes, I come to "Black Swan" with a lot of baggage. I liked the film for what it was - part thriller, part horror, part fantasy. But I missed the love, the laughter, the romance and the heartbreak of my favourite ballet films.

At first I thought it was misogynistic, and the first twenty minutes really are relentless in that regard. But then the story takes off and I found myself immersed in the crazed world of this artist who succumbs to absolute perfectionism in her dark world of manipulative and egotistical colleagues. It captured my imagination and my interest, but it left my heart untouched.

I yearned for poor Natalie to be given a friend or a loving father, or if not then at least a bit of a sense of humour. I needed to let go of some of the angst and horror and have a little laugh; the contrast would have made the story all the more powerful.

Dancing should bring light as well as darkness into the world of both the dancer and audience; couldn't the tiniest crack of sunlight be allowed into the world of "Black Swan"? No. That was not part of Aronofsky's vision, and that's fine. I can live with that.

Here is a palate cleanser:

Baryshnikov and Hines dancing together in "White Nights." Because life's too short to see only the black swan side of life.


Can you imagine how O. and I felt when, MANY years later, we saw this scene in "Sex and the City"? Apparently we were not alone in our Baryshnikov obsession!


Trash said...

Gregory Hines also danced in Mel Brook's History of The World Part 1 - "And that's the Ethiopian Shim Sham!"

Jen said...

I loved Black Swan, but I can no longer clip my nails with a light heart. Yes, I now have fingernail baggage.

Mary said...

I adore ballet movies - love them.

Could.not.cope. with Black.Swan. A dark allegory - sure that I could live with. A lot of what I saw seemed just gratuitous to me!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, thanks for the link to the White Nights clip! So interesting to compare and contrast the same moves being made by a talented dancer who has learned the moves and the world's best danseur. MB's upper body, even when it is the part doing the move, seems always to be completely relaxed, whereas I can see GH's muscular tension. Both wonderful dancers, just different.

I must see Black Swan, no matter how black it is. Like you, I love ballet films.

The Coffee Lady said...

I rarely ever watched SATC, but he turned out bad in the end.

Duyvken said...

One our first date Mr Duyvken and I saw Chasing Amy. There's a long scene in which they discuss oral sex and the most appreciated techniques for going down on a woman. Not the most comfortable part of the night :-) xx

Paola said...

Oh I haven't watched Black Swan and I am not sure I will from what I am reading ... but boy did I like her at the Oscars!

Big SATC fan here, he was great even if we all knew he didn't have a chance against Mr. Big ...

kim at allconsuming said...

I am disappointed you have not included Footloose in this post.

Greatest movie ever made.

I mean, what tops one man's fight with a town for the right to dance?

D - Chef and my first date was to see the movie The Object of Beauty (recommended by a weirdo we worked with). Most boring movie.ever.