This idea had been mainly generated in my mind by the petty jealousies and rivalries that seemed to be rife at my ballet school, where getting the best roles at the end of the year show (that obviously implied having a longer part and getting as a bonus the most wonderful costume) seemed to be for some of us a matter of life or death.
To disperse the tensions I used to write on my diary funny stories involving rivalries and costumes that we would read in the changing rooms.
Yet, despite my efforts at seeing things, from a funny point of view and despite my passion for ballet and for everything ballet-related, I always tended to cast a negative light on ballet schools in general, while films like The Red Shoes (1948) only ended up reinforcing my views of ballet school/company madness.
Entitled Black Swan and featuring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, the movie is a sort of dark psychological thriller focusing on Nina (Portman), a dancer at the New York City Ballet, who is given the lead role in the company’s production of Swan Lake.
Nina is put under pressure by her mother (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer, and manipulative dance master (Vincent Cassel), and, to complicate things, she also meets an intriguing rival, Lily (Kunis), gifted with all the sensuality and sexuality Nina doesn’t seem to have.
Ballet in the film is a sort of excuse to tackle the theme of the doppelganger, borrowed from Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Double and symbolically represented on screen by the dichotomy between the White and the Black Swan.
A few months ago, articles multiplied on the Internet about the same-sex scenes between Portman and Kunis, but now the interest has shifted towards the 67th Venice Film Festival since the Black Swan was announced as the opening film (premiering on 1st September) of the event.
The film was chosen in a way as a tribute to Aronofsky who won a Golden Lion in 2008 with The Wrestler, but the news generated a lot of interest in the fashion world since the Rodarte sisters designed the costumes for the film.
From what I have seen so far the costume for the Black Swan looks like a more gothic version of classic tutus traditionally seen in every production of Swan Lake, and it's still hard to say if this tutu or the costumes for the entire ballet corps reflect the noir and horror atmospheres of Rodarte’s own collections.
While Black Swan marks Rodarte's first foray into costuming, the Mulleavy sisters are in a way just following a tradition that saw many fashion designers, from Gaultier to Versace and Lacroix, designing costumes for theatre, ballet and opera productions.
There aren't many contemporary designers out there interested in working also for the stage and I think that, when it comes to ballet, not many designers actually display the sensibility you need to create costumes for dance performances.
I’m not a huge Gianni Versace fan, but I must admit he had a special talent for designing costumes for ballets, because he loved this form of art and he seemed to have a special respect for dancers and choreographers.
I do love ballet and I honestly dread thinking what will happen when the film comes out and at its premiere (will the Venice Film Festival organisers be able to keep at bay the hordes of Rodarte-devoted fashion bloggers and make sure the film is reviewed for its story and directing/acting skills rather than for its costumes?).
The Wrestler enjoyed further success after winning a Golden Lion in Venice and it’s only natural that Aronofsky now nurses the same hopes for Black Swan.
Only time will tell if Black Swan is a masterpiece or an ugly duckling and if, matched with pointe shoes (by the way the ballet slippers Natalie Portman were auctioned a while back for the Crafts For A Cause auction) rather than with Nicholas Kirkwood’s high heels, Rodarte’s creations still look striking.
For the time being I’m enthusiastically cautious about this film (well, some parts of the screenplay – like Vincent Cassel as the dance master claiming “Your mission is destruction through seduction” – make me honestly cringe) that, according to Aronofsky, is a gothic tale with hints of Hitchcock that doesn't display connections with more traditional ballet-themed films like Herbert Ross' The Turning Point (1977), but it's a rework of the screenplay for The Understudy (2008) with references to Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve and Roman Polanski's The Tenant.
Apparently all the gruesome sequences promised in Black Swan are references to the scenes in which Rourke is attacked by a rival in The Wrestler, as the films doesn't bear any connections with the gore elements of ballet-themed horror films à la Suspiria.
At least the film will
give ballet enthusiast the opportunity of seeing member of the New York
City Ballet Benjamin Millepied debuting as actor and choreographer, and
members of the Pennsylvania Ballet acting as the corps de ballet, and in a way I hope that Black Swan will be more Suspiria and less Fame.
What’s for sure though is that despite Portman and Kurtis’ efforts and training, costumes won't give them the grace and elegance of Alicia Alonso and Polina Semionova’s Black Swans.
I'm embedding here performances by Alonso (1958 and 1967) and Semionova to give you an idea of what the Black Swan part requires from a real ballerina, followed by a Suspiria extract for some added horror and suspense.
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and PhotosMember of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos Add to Technorati Favorites Lijit Search