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Posts Tagged ‘Black Swan’

Never one to turn down an opportunity for a new experience, I found myself at the ballet earlier this week.  To clarify “new experience”, my knowledge of ballet doesn’t extend beyond The Red Shoes, Black Swan and Billy Elliot.  It is no surprise that my awareness comes from the movies, but it is also very appropriate as my introduction to the art form was Swan Lake, the background to the movie Black Swan.  The venue was Birmingham’s fantastic Hippodrome, the home of the Birmingham Royal Ballet since 1990.  For those who know even less than me here is the synopsis provided by the Birmingham Royal Ballet:

Ballet’s greatest love story returns in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s lavish production. This romantic fable of ill-fated passion, powerfully illuminated by Tchaikovsky’s legendary score, has bewitched audiences for generations.

By a moonlit lake, a grieving prince witnesses the transformation of a swan into a beautiful princess. Compelled by an evil spell to spend her days in the form of a bird, she can only be saved by the power of love.

Filled with exquisite ensembles, lyrical pas de deux and bravura solos, this Swan Lake is atmospheric, romantic and beautiful – an unforgettable experience.Birmingham-Royal-Ballet-shows-Swan-Lake (1)

The story is split into four acts:

  • ACT I: A COURTYARD IN THE CASTLE
  • ACT II: THE LAKESIDE BY MOONLIGHT
  • ACT III: THE BALLROOM OF THE CASTLE
  • ACT IV: THE LAKESIDE

The first was possibly the weakest and felt a little repetitive.  Things got going in act two with the introduction of  Odette, Von Rothbart (the evil sorcerer, who has enchanted Odette) and the swans.  It came as a surprise how long it took to introduce the main character (remember my knowledge costumes and what appears to be hugely technical and complicated dancing and the introduction of Odile (The Black Swan).  The final act starts with the shows standout moment.  For a performance that is all about dancing, the breathtaking moment came from total lack of movement.  The curtain rises on the lakeside we saw in act two.  The stage is filled with dry ice smoke like an 80’s disco (or a scene from Alien).  As the mist pours out over the edge of the stage into the stalls and orchestra pit it reveals a stage filled with the swan-maidens.  The whole performance lasted around three hours including two intermissions, the time flew by.Birmingham-Royal-Ballet-shows-Swan-Lake

You may have picked up from my tone that I enjoyed it, the surprising thing is just how much I enjoyed it.  I have never had any interest in dance or dancing but found the whole spectacle enchanting and enthralling.  I know nothing about technique or the positions and movements associated with ballet but anyone with an interest in art can appreciate aesthetics and form, but like a football match you know when someone has done something special or spectacular.

If you want to know how good the lead dancers were look for a review from someone who knows what they are talking about.  Odette/Odile was performed by Céline Gittens and Prince Singleton by Tyrone Singleton.  I looked them up after the show, they are very highly regarded.  Both are mixed-race, a big deal was made of this when they first took these roles three years ago “it will be the first time the ballerina role has been taken by a black dancer in the UK”.  Although this was portrayed as a positive moment for ballet, it is a shame that it is something was even worth mentioning.  The one thing I did go in knowing a little about is the music.  I have a few albums (yes real albums on vinyl) of ballet music.  It is the one form of classical music that I enjoy.   I am pleased to report that the music performed by The Royal Ballet Sinfonia was fantastic and I would have happily listened to it even if I hadn’t enjoyed the visual performance.rs-swan-lake-celine-gittens-and-tyrone-singleton-sorrow_1000

I am not about to sign up for a season ticket and declare myself as ballet lover, but may well go again in future.  For those interested Swan Lake is on for another few days in Birmingham before going on tour.  

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While researching an article on film certification I came across the BBFC podcast.  In one of their episodes they mentioned the highest number of complaints they have received in recent years was for Black Swan (2011).  The most interesting thing was how few complains and what they were for;  The number was around 40 and the reason, parents complaining that their daughters who were expecting a nice film about ballet. It was clearly a case of expectations.  The trailer makes the film look like the giallo inspired psychological horror/thriller that it is.  As someone who grew up watching films on video with a certificate beyond my age I may not have the best judgment on the subject, however I do think the 15 is about right.black-swan-movie-1

A look at the BBFC website gives a interesting insight into how they came to the decision “Black Swan presented the BBFC with a whole range of classification issues when it was submitted for an advice viewing in 2010”.  It appears the reasons the film received the 15 certificate and was considered for an 18 include: Sex, language, drug use, self harm and bloody images as described in the BBFCinsight (BBFCinsight is aimed particularly at parents. It offers a summary of how and why a film was rated at any given category). The film’s director Darren Aronofsky previous made Requiem For a Dream (2001) that received an 18 certificate for “strong drug use, language, violence, sex and medical gore”.  Everything in the film stems from the drug use, and if there ever was an anti-drug film this is it.REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

As mentioned, it’s all a matter of perspective.  Black Swan is a psychological thriller about the breakdown of an emotionally fragile young woman.  On the other hand the seminal Ballet movie Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES (1948) is actually a darker movie.  When you strip away the stunning photography and fantastic score you are left with a story of a woman who is forced to make an impossible choice between love and the job she loves.  It’s a fairytale with all the sweetness and happiness removed.  A movie that is as devastating as it is beautiful.  Without the sex, language, drug use, self harm and bloody images the film has a U rating meaning anyone of any age can watch it without any warning that they are going to have their heart and hope ripped from them.the red shoes moira shearer

I’m unsure what conclusions we can draw from this other than to say films aren’t always what you expect and the written guidelines such as BBFCinsight are probably more relevant the simple number or letter of the certificate.

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Radio 2's Top 100 Favourite Albums

I spent a large proportion of the past Bank Holiday Monday listening to a BBC Radio2 poll ranking their Top 100 Favourite Albums. Basically what they did was take their Top 100 Most Played Albums (limited to one per artist) and asked listeners to rank them. The results were often surprising with a top five consisting of:

  1. Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
  2. Keane – Hopes & Fears
  3. Duran Duran – Rio
  4. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (the only one a lot of people expected)
  5. Dido – No Angel

Ahead of what a lot of people expected including in the top five:

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Queen – A Night At The Opera
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Led Zeppelin – Untitled fourth album

One of my thoughts were that different records live longer in the mind and memory, and possibly the heart than others. For example, I bought No Angel when it first came out (before the Eminem sample made it a hit), I listened to it a lot but haven’t listened to it in about five years. I first heard Rumours and Zeppelin’s fourth album when I was a kid and still listen to them all the time and see no reason why I won’t continue to for the foreseeable future. The conclusion, if they re-do this list in fifteen or twenty years time No Angel and A Rush Of Blood To The Head may not make the top 10 or even the top 100, but Rumours, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Sgt Pepper, Born to Run, Bridge Over Troubled Water and countless other classic albums will still be there.Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Led Zeppelin Bridge Over Troubled Water The Dark Side Of The Moon

This got me thinking about the current and recent movies that will be heralded as classics in the future and which will be forgotten. Skyfall will be watched a lot and may prove to be the best Bond ever but will be dismissed as just another Bond movie. The Dark Knight Rises will survive as part of, one of the best movie trilogies ever, but possibly the weakest link of the trilogy. The Artist may be considered a gimmick. Stoker, Cloud Atlas, We Need to Talk About Kevin and some great foreign language movies like Amour, Rust and Bone, The Skin I live In and In the House may be too obscure for the masses. Moonrise Kingdom is going to age well as is Argo so could be up there in popular opinion. I can’t make my mind up about Drive and Black Swan but hope I love them as much in years to come as I do now after two or three viewings and hope others feel the same about them. Margin Call and Zero Dark Thirty will possibly stand as testaments to the time but possibly not a time we will want to look back on too often or very fondly.Moonrise Kingdom Argo Margin Call Zero Dark Thirty

The conclusion, there hasn’t been a 12 Angry Men, The Godfather, Goodfellas or even Star Wars in recent years, the two closest are probably The Dark Knight and Inception. I’m not saying it is a bad time for film, in fact the opposite, while, the occasional all time classics seem a little few and far between the number of really good movies being made is greater than ever. I just long for a Citizen Kane, The Searchers or Casablanca, we are about due one. Or am I being cynical and some of the movies I have mentioned will find their way to the upper reaches of the IMDB top 250?Citizen Kane The Searchers Casablanca 12 Angry Men

Update:

Want to read more on the subject? Check out THIS ARTICLE that picks up the baton from where I left off.

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There is something special about watching a movie for a second time. It doesn’t hold the mystery of the first viewing but it brings a certain nervous feeling as to how it will hold up to the scrutiny of a second look. I must have liked it the first time to be watching it again, but why did I like it, is it as good as I remember? It’s a little like a second date, you are worried about things going wrong. Like a second date, it is the time when you make some choices, do you have a future, or you are never going to see each other again. I am not usually one to change my mind. Ryan from The Matinee, is a great advocate of re-watching movies you don’t like first time around to give them a second chance. He is a hard person to disagree with, not only are his opinions spot on more often than not but he is embarrassingly articulate in expressing them, however I still tend to trust my first impression and judgment when it comes to movies. With all this in mind I have just re-watched two of my favourite films from the last few years, Black Swan and Drive.black-swan-movie-1

Black Swan is pretty much as I remember it, the character Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) describes his take on Swan Lake as “visceral and real” that is how the movie feels while still existing in a dream like state. While it offers a huge debt to Italian giallo movies, it is its own beast electrified by amazing performances from Natalie Portman, (the underrated) Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. When I first saw Drive last year I described it as “possibly the most stylish movie you will see all year“ and “Brutal but mesmerising” like with Black Swan my first impressions where spot on. The movie is slick and stylish and elevated by Ryan Gosling’s equally slick but economical staring role. Both movies have now found a place on my DVD shelf and will be enjoyed again in the not too distant future.Ryan Gosling, Drive

How will this years crop of movies cope with the scrutiny of a second viewing. Due to long runs in the cinema and how much I liked them, I have already seen Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises twice and enjoyed them both the second time around. Of the other films I have enjoyed this year I expect Argo and Moonrise Kingdom to be as good as I remember them. I look forward to watching Haywire and Killer Joe again as most people I speak to didn’t enjoy them as much as me. The interesting one will be The Avengers, is it as good as I remember or is my impression formed from the fact that it exceeded my expectations rather than it was good on its own merits? Only time and a second viewing will tell.

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When I posted Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (ten pairs of very different movies with the same or similar titles) last year Katie from The Stories That Really Mattered commented that she “hadn’t realised there were so many movies with the same titles”! there are lots more where that came from. Here are another ten:

Convoy (1927): A silent-film set in the in the time leading up to the first world war starring Dorothy Mackaill about a New York socialite who is recruited Secret Service agent to befriend a man believed to be a spy for the Kaiser.

Convoy (1978): Sam Peckinpah’s road movie/ modern western is based on a country song of same title by C.W. McCall and stars Kris Kristofferson as an independent truck driver and Ali MacGraw as his passenger.

The Black Swan (1942): Notorious pirate Henry Morgan turned governor of Jamaica staring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara.

Black Swan (2010): Natalie Portman Oscar winning perforce as a ballet dancer on the edge in Darren Aronofsky’s physiological thriller that owns a debt t European horror movies of the 70’s.

Notorious (1946): Loosely based on the same source novel as Convoy (1927) (see above) Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant star, Alfred Hitchcock directs.

Notorious (2009): The rise and fall of rapper Christopher Wallace a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.

Shame (1968): Haven’t seen this one so my synopsis is copied from IMDB “Ingmar Bergman’s psychological study of how humans react in a situation of war. The film takes place on Gotland, where invasion forces arrives.”

Shame (2011): Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good in Steve McQueen’s portrayal of a man living with sex addiction.

Heat (1986): Burt Reynolds was for a time one of the most bankable stars in the world, this Las Vegas set mid 80’s crime thriller came shortly after that time.

Heat (1995): Focusing on two men on opposite sides of the law, Michael Mann’s crime thriller is both the directors finest hour and the last great performance (so far) from both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.

Crossroads (1986):Director Walter Hill’s little known gem sees classical music student (Ralph Macchio) teaming up with old bluesman Willie Brown (Joe Seneca) on a road trip to the Crossroads where Robert Johnson made his deal with the devil.

Crossroads (2002): Britney Spears vehicle about a group of friends who go on a road-trip to LA to take part in a karaoke contest. Originally dismissed as a movie for Britney fans only it is actually now more significant for an early appearance by Zoe Saldana.

Jersey Girl (1992): I had not actually heard of this Dylan McDermott, Jami Gertz romance until Mark Kermode mentioned it. I have no plans to see it!

Jersey Girl (2004): The other Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez movie! The good news it is considerably better than Gigli. It doesn’t live up to Kevin Smiths earlier films but has its moments and Liv Tyler is good.

Twilight (1998): A retired ex-cop turned private detective gets involved with a twenty year old Hollywood murder case. Worth a look for Paul Newman who is as great as ever and Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman who provide good support but the plot is a little to thin and it runs out of steam.

Twilight (2008): Catherine Hardwicke’s surprisingly good adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire yarn.

The Avengers (1998): Disastrous movie adaptation of the classic 60’s TV show.

The Avengers (2012): Due for release later this year, the origin of Marvel’s team of superheroes.

Wonderland (1999):Michael Winterbottom’s stunning social realist movie that features a stunning performance from Gina McKee.

Wonderland (2003): The true story of porn star John Holmes and the wonderland murders.

Check back soon for Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood 3

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During a review film critic Mark Kermode has suggested the cinematic nostalgia of Hugo and The Artist would make a great double bill. With this in mind here are a weeks worth of double bills from last years movies (UK release):

Monday: Psychological Thrillers

Thematically very different but stylistically similar: Black Swan and The Skin I live in, two great psychological thrillers that both owe a debt to 70’s European horror.

Tuesday: Female assassins

Two very different takes on an idea. Hanna is the better movie but I don’t think it is as good as the reviews have suggested. On the other hand Colombiana isn’t a great movie but I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Wednesday: Kooky Teens

Take a teenager who doesn’t quite fit in to school and society in general and throw into the mix a first relationship and you have a kooky teen movie. There have been two great examples one British and one American: Submarine and The Art of Getting By

Thursday: Girls in asylums

Although they look very different Sucker Punch and John Carpenter’s The Ward are actually very similar films. The Ward has sadly been overlooked and Sucker Punch unfairly slated, I know I am in a minority but I like both movies.

Friday: Vampires

Vampire movies are still coming out thick and fast, the best of from this year are the surprisingly good Priest (don’t bother with the 3D version) and the original and innovative Stake Land.

Saturday: Rocky for the 21st century

Using fighting robots and cage fighting but Warrior and Real Steel are essentially still sports movies like Rocky with all the same themes and messages and like Rock Both are very watchable.

Sunday: Classic Horror

Hammer is yet to recapture the eerie brilliance of its original gothic horror in its absence comes two brilliant chillers, Julia’s Eyes and The Awakening.

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2011 Films

All the films I saw at the cinema in 2011 ranked in order of preference:
  1. Hugo
  2. Drive
  3. The Guard
  4. Black Swan
  5. Senna
  6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  7. True Grit
  8. We Need to Talk About Kevin
  9. Midnight In Paris
  10. The Skin I live in
  11. The King’s Speech
  12. Moneyball
  13. Stake Land
  14. Kill List
  15. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  16. Another Earth
  17. Melancholia
  18. Warrior
  19. 127 Hours
  20. The Way
  21. Julia’s Eyes
  22. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
  23. Troll Hunter
  24. 50/50
  25. Source Code
  26. Submarine
  27. Super 8
  28. 13 Assassins
  29. A Lonely Place To Die
  30. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec
  31. The Adjustment Bureau
  32. X-Men: First Class
  33. Thor
  34. Captain America: The First Avenger
  35. Limitless
  36. My Week With Marilyn
  37. The Inbetweeners Movie
  38. Take Shelter
  39. The Rum Diary
  40. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  41. The Ides Of March
  42. Real Steel
  43. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  44. Fair Game
  45. Never Let Me Go
  46. Blue Valentine
  47. Tree Of Life
  48. The Lincoln Lawyer
  49. The Help
  50. In Time
  51. The Awakening
  52. Sucker Punch
  53. Fast Five
  54. Hanna
  55. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark
  56. Wuthering Heights
  57. Contagion
  58. The Fighter
  59. Paul
  60. Animal Kingdom
  61. NEDS
  62. Rabbit Hole
  63. One Day
  64. John Carpenter’s The Ward
  65. Drive Angry
  66. The Beaver
  67. Beginners
  68. Bridesmaids
  69. Red State
  70. Cowboys and Aliens
  71. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  72. The Conspirator
  73. The Art of Getting By
  74. I am Number Four
  75. Fright Night
  76. Henry’s Crime
  77. Blitz
  78. Priest
  79. Red Riding Hood
  80. Oranges and Sunshine
  81. Faster
  82. 1920 The Battle of Warsaw
  83. Win Win
  84. Colombiana
  85. Water for Elephants
  86. Immortals
  87. Battle: Los Angeles
  88. 30 Minutes or Less
  89. Hereafter
  90. Biutiful
  91. The Mechanic
  92. The Thing
  93. The Three Musketeers
  94. Anonymous
  95. Tomorrow, When The War Began
  96. The Debt
  97. Green Lantern
  98. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
  99. Footlose
  100. Justice
  101. Attack the Block
  102. Apollo 18
  103. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  104. Unkown
  105. Scream 4
  106. The Silent House
  107. The Eagle
  108. The Resident
  109. Season of the Witch
  110. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  111. The Hangover: Part II
  112. Sanctum

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