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Black Swan


Stars: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied, Sebastian Stan, Janet Montgomery, Toby Hemingway

Director: Darren Aronofsky

A splendidly, flamboyantly bad chiller that's almost as batty as its leading character. Portman - what can you say about a performance this good in a film this foolish? - is ballerina Nina (what else could she be called in a film like this?), who wants to be the Snow Queen in an outré production of Swan Lake, egged on by her ambitious mother (Hershey).

First she has to please the equally daft (though not in the same dangerous way) ballet master Thomas (Cassel) who despairs of her ever perfecting the evil side of the Queen, but gives her the role anyway after she makes an amateurish attempt to seduce him.

'I don't want there to be any boundaries between us,' he remarks. 'Have you got a boyfriend?' before starting to make vigorous love to her - there's a lot of private parts and the grasping thereof in the movie - to show how aggressive the evil Queen should be. Or maybe it's all in Nina's fevered imagination, as it's never clear what is real and what is nasty fantasy; the only thing that is obvious is that she's a number one whack job, perhaps borderline schizophrenic, but at any rate several tutus short of a full corps de ballet.

The bleeding from her back, feet and fingers may be from self harm, or it may not be there at all. What is sure is that there is no way she could dance in the way she does at the climax given the circumstances that precede it.

Portman did 10 months' daily ballet training for the part and it shows: she looks like the real deal. Her acting, too, is a good cut above the rest of the cast.

Impossible to rate a film like this for the average cinemagoer: something this riotously bad could be your idea of a great night out.

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Technicolor.
110 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 17 Jan 2011