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BLACK SWAN

Featuring an Academy Award winning Best Actress performance from Natalie Portman, BLACK SWAN ($40) is director Darren Aronofsky’s arresting psychological thriller about an emotionally fragile ballerina, who begins to crack under the pressure of dancing the lead role in Swan Lake. When we first encounter Nina (Portman), she is a driven dancer in a New York City ballet company, who is noted for her perfectionism and technical prowess. Nina is also somewhat sheltered from the world by her overbearing, controlling mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), who tries to vicariously relive her own aspirations as a dancer through Nina.

Trying to take the ballet company in a new direction, director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), forces the retirement of aging prima ballerina Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) and announces a stripped down version of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake as its next production. Thomas auditions many of the dancers, including Nina, for the lead role Swan Queen, and recognizes that Nina has the discipline and control to perform the White Swan. However, the dual role calls for the dancer also display a seductive, sexual abandon as the Black Swan, something that Thomas is unconvinced Nina has inside of her. Despite his reservations, Thomas gives Nina the role of the Swan Queen, thinking that he’ll be able unlock the darker qualities his star will require to embody the Black Swan. As Nina works on perfecting her performance, she also begins to become fixated on company newcomer, Lily (Mila Kunis), a less disciplined, sexually uninhibited dancer, who has the just the right quality for the Black Swan. With the opening drawing closer, Nina’s fragile psyche begins to unravel from the various external and internal pressures placed upon her.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made BLACK SWAN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. BLACK SWAN has been given a highly pleasing 1080p presentation that accurately represents the artistic intentions of its filmmakers. Bottom line, BLACK SWAN is an art house movie, with an art house aesthetic and not a glossy, overproduced Hollywood "A" production. Utilizing a mixture of Super 16mm film and digital cameras, BLACK SWAN has a gritty, textured documentary quality that adds a sense of realism that contrasts exceedingly well with the leading character’s more hallucinatory moments. Because, of how BLACK SWAN was shot, the image isn’t as highly defined as a 35mm production, but it impresses nonetheless. Fine details come out quite well in the costumes and even in the actors’ faces. For the most part, colors are subdued, but not washed out. Full production dance sequences demonstrate better saturation the non-dance sequences. Blacks are deep, while the whites appear pure. Contrast has a slight push in places, but otherwise appears accurate. Shadow detail is just fine. The elements from which BLACK SWAN has been mastered are pretty much without flaws. There is a veneer of grain within the image, which sometimes becomes a bit thick, but maintains the organic quality of the presentation.

BLACK SWAN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is a very high quality track- simple and highly effective. As BLACK SWAN is largely a talky drama, it relies upon the subtleties of its sound design to impress audience. There is a tremendous sense of presence and precision within the sound design that takes full advantage of all the outlying channels. Atmospherics and little environmental sounds are utilized to excellent effect. The lossless encoding enhances the wondrous musical component, which consists largely of Tchaikovsky's music from Swan Lake and variations by composer Clint Mansell. The bass channel is deep and solidifies the soundtrack. Dialogue is precise and easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. The primary feature on the Blu-ray is Black Swan: Metamorphosis, a forty-nine minute program that looks at the production in detail, and features comments from the director, actors and crew. Featurettes and other programs include: Ballet (three minutes), Production Design (four minutes), Profile: Natalie Portman (three minutes), Profile: Darren Aronofsky (three minutes), Conversation: Preparing For The Role (four minutes), Conversation: Dancing With The Camera (two minutes), Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character With Natalie Portman (six minutes), Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character With Winona Ryder (two minutes), Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character With Barbara Hershey (four minutes), Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character With Vincent Cassel (five minutes) and Fox Movie Channel Presents: Direct Effect, Darren Aronofsky (six minutes). A Theatrical Trailer and Bonus Trailers close out the standard supplements. BLACK SWAN is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Pocket BLU is a mobile app that allows access to extra features via a smartphone.

BLACK SWAN is an arresting psychological thriller that features an Oscar winning performance from Natalie Portman. The Blu-ray presentation is excellent- rendering the artistic intent of the filmmakers without compromise. Highly recommended.

 
BLACK SWAN 


Black Swan [Blu-ray] (2010)

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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