Is Darren Aronofsky's 'Black Swan' a masterpiece? Early buzz from the Venice Film Festival

black-swanImage Credit: Niko TaverniseBlack Swan — the new psychological thriller from Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Pi) starring Natalie Portman as an ambitious ballerina — took its first flight yesterday at the Venice Film Festival. (Click here to read EW’s take on the creepy trailer.) Based on early reviews, the movie is already set to be one of the year’s most love-it-or-hate-it movies, with some critics praising it (and star Natalie Portman) as an early Oscar favorite, and others flipping it the (rhetorical) bird. Check out some snippets from the online reviews below.

“A wicked, sexy and ultimately devastating study of a young dancer’s all-consuming ambition, Black Swan serves as a fascinating complement to Darren Arononfsky’s The Wrestler, trading the grungy world of a broken-down fighter for the more upscale but no less brutal sphere of professional ballet.” — Peter Debruge, Variety

“The movie is so damn out-there in every way that you can’t help admiring Aronofsky for daring to be so very, very absurd. Swan is an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what’s so good about it.”  — Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter

“Powerful, gripping and always intriguing, it also features a lead performance from Natalie Portman that elevates her from a substantial leading actress to major star likely to be lifting awards in the near future.” — David Gritten, Telegraph (UK)

“As a sensory experience for the eyes and ears, Black Swan provides bountiful stimulation…. But when the script by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz, based on the latter’s story, struggles to carve out a real-world parallel to the life-and-death struggle depicted in the dance story, it goes over the top in something approaching grand guignol fashion.” — Todd McCarthy, Indiewire

“Best film I’ve seen all year…. Aronofsky has made his first masterpiece and Portman must now be favourite for the Oscar.” — Rob Beames, Obsessed with Film

So how about it, PopWatchers: Do these reviews make you want to strap on your toe shoes and (daintily) run to theaters when Black Swan comes out Dec. 1?

Comments (35 total) Add your comment
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  • Mr. Holloway

    I feel like even Honeycutt’s “negative” review is as bad as this movie can be. (Meaning that, even if it’s bad, it’ll still be a visual feast and interesting to watch.)

    Also, I’m not sure what Beames is talking about. Aronofsky has already made a couple of masterpieces. (“Requiem” and “The Wrestler”.)

    • Mark S. King

      “The Wrestler” was a great performance but “Requiem” is a flat-out masterpiece. Anybody else think Aronofsky is shaping into the Ken Russell of our time?

      Mark S. King

      • Jane

        Requiem did nothing for me though, funnily enough, I did like The Fountain.

      • paige

        all of Aronofsky’s movies are masterpieces. from Pi to The Wrestler, this man has yet to make a movie Ive been dissapointed about

    • Albert

      And don’t forget the fountain! In my opinion it’s his least recognized but truly his most masterful.

  • Stephanie T.

    KISS does ballet. Interesting.

  • j

    Unimpressed because Natalie looks nothing like a principal ballerina. I realize that’s not what the movie’s really about but I mean, it is a big part of it.

  • therealeverton

    Looking forward to it all the more now. Also Portman strikes me as one of those actors who’ll have to wait untill she’s 80 something for a lifetime achievement Oscar. Not because she hasn’t delivered many Oscar worthy performances, she has, but because you just get that vibe.

    Hope I’m wrong, she’s a class act.



  • Lee

    Will be seeing the film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this month – am now very intrigued.

  • Roger C.

    Aronofsky is a hack. His movies all have the same theme of characters who have an obsession for something, and mental angst. It’s sad, because you see potential, but he really is just another version of Guy Ritchie, a director who can only thrive when he makes a certain type of movie. Critics are starting to figure him out.

    • Lou

      You can call Aronofsky many things, but a “hack”? Do you even know the meaning of that word? Why is it when internet trolls don’t like a director you go straight for “hack”? And comparing him to Guy Ritchie of all people…WTF? If you’re going to critique a director’s work, be a little more constructive. This isn’t the AICN message board.

    • Ron

      Total bollocks…You’ll be eating humble pie come Oscar night!

  • Tye-Grr

    Portman is praised even in the “negative” reviews. She seems like a lock for Best Actress, if nothing else. It’s still my most anticipated film of the year.

  • John

    I like his films, even when he fails (“The Fountain”) I still admire his ambition. It’s sad that Satoshi Kon just died, he and Aronofsky really pushed the reality vs. dream envelope very far. However, I do think that “The Fountain” is another “Blade Runner.” I’m anxiously awaiting the “director’s cut.”

    • tracy bluth

      Eh….even the original Blade Runner was a decent film. From what I heard about “The Fountain”, it sounds terrible.
      You could have a point though. The director’s cut of Blade Runner made it one of my favorite films.

      • ms

        Eh… and where did you hear ‘The Fountain’ is terrible? Just checked: on Rotten Tomatoes it has a 73% fresh score based on 77,786 user reviews, on imdb 7.4/10 based on 72,370 user votes and on metacritic 8/10 based on 243 user reviews. It doesn’t sound that terrible now, does it?

  • m1

    Mila Kunis doesn’t seem to be getting attention. Hopefully that will change soon.

    • orville

      I noticed that in the flurry of articles on the movie today. Let’s hope that she’s not being mentioned because she’s bad in it.

      If nothing else, it will be interesting. Aronofsky doesn’t go halfway.

  • tracy bluth

    I seriously hope it doesn’t turn out that Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman are the same person or something.
    I decided to see this film as soon as I heard Winona Ryder was going to be in it.

    • m1

      I agree. That would be a USELESS ending.

    • Chaz Winterbottom

      I think the twist is that Natalie Portman and William Hurt are the same person!

  • reason

    It looks quite intriguing, I was looking forward to it before this buzz, now I am really excited!

  • Alex

    It certainly looks interisting, ill see it but I dont know how much im anticipating it.

  • Roger C.

    If this movie didn’t have the lesbian angle, no one would care about it, and that’s a fact.

    • m1

      Not necessarily. My draw for this film is Natalie Portman.

      • Kendall

        Same for me. I’m a sucker for this sort of psychodrama and was looking forward to this film already but now all the buzz about Natalie’s performance has me really interested.

    • Ron

      You’re kidding right…My draw here is Aronofsky who’s clearly a visionary and exciting director for all serious film buffs!!!

  • Chase

    I’m definitely getting more a ‘Fountain’ vibe from this trailer than ‘Wrestler’. IMHO, Aronosky’s at his best when brings the viewer to a place they have never been intellectually. Is it intense? Yes. I think it’s that aspect that scares a majority of people away from his films.

    • Ron

      I’m guessing you’re a Twilight fan by any chance. or maybe Step-Up 3D!!!

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