Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Swan

The bureau chief saw Roman Polanski's "Repulsion" back during his salad days. Being young I found it creepy but quite a black humor hoot. Years later I tried to re-watch it but found it too disturbing. I felt sorry for Catherine Deneuve. I felt the same way about Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan". Although the films' plots are totally different, they share the same machinery---let's watch one of the most beautiful women on the planet fall apart, one  in a London apartment and the other in a New York ballet company, and let's wallow in the voyeuristic delight of her abjection.

As we would expect, Polanski faced the tawdry horror film elements and porny thrills and went for it. Who can forget the rotting rabbit or the straight edged razor? Bravo. Aronofsky, on the other hand, wraps it in a high art package but it's not fooling us. It's the same thing. (The bureau chief wants to mention that he is not against voyeurism but against dishonest voyeurism.)

Stuart Klawans, The Nation's fine film reviewer, had a wonderful time reviewing "Black Swan". I genuflect to him and here's my favorite paragraph:

"I laughed longer and louder than at any other movie this year; but before you try doing the same, be aware that you'll have to twitch and sigh through the first two-thirds, and then, when it gets good, face the wrath of people who are taking "Black Swan" seriously.

How they do it, I can't imagine."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Social Network

It's Oscar season and the people behind "The Social Network" are pimping it for best movie of the year. Some critics are agreeing with them. The bureau chief does not, although it's pretty good and definitely the best thing David Fincher has done. I think the film is benefiting from the dancing dog syndrome. No one believed you could make a film about the origins of an Internet company that was entertaining and so it's overpraised.

Fincher uses his considerable technical abilities to keep the film going at a furious pace and writer Aaron Sorkin's dialogue is similarly fast and clever. The acting is excellent. Plus it's about Facebook, which presently has over 500,000,000 users (the bureau chief is not one of them). However a certain amount of slight of hand is involved. The film is not really about the Facebook phenomenon in the 21st Century. It's constructed of much older stuff: the queasiness of the supposedly nonexistent American class system; the youthful agonies of lust and love; the central capitalist myth of the bootstrapping young entrepreneur; the betrayals that success brings etc. This is not a criticism. These are the constituent things that will be here when Facebook morphs into something else or is pushed aside by something bigger.