Black Swan and Darren Aronfosky Q & A (19th Philly Film Fest)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


What Aronofsky’s Oscar nominated The Wrestler has in common with his latest film Black Swan is self destructive lead characters, and a lot of hand held, unfiltered camera shots; that’s where the similarities end, as The Wrestler was a true smaller Indie flick and Black Swan has the sweeping grandeur of an old-movie thriller.
There’s an ominousness surrounding the film from the start. Even as you are experiencing the innocence pouring out of Nina (Natalie Portman) dressed in pristine whites shrugs and scarfs and baby pink coat, you feel there’s something else in store, you’re afraid of seeing something extremely disturbing. The film explores a lot of themes: Perfection is an impossible state of being; We can be our own worse enemy: The opposite scales of black and white in terms of Nina being very controlled and Lilly (Mila Kunis) being uninhibited and full of impulse. Mostly (sans the prince) it’s the story of the Swan Queen come to life in film.
Looks like Aronofsky will be back at the Oscars this coming March and Natalie Portman should be right beside him.
Q & A excerpts:
The impression you get of Darren Aronofsky is that he has to control his impulse to be a smart-ass. His biting wit reminds you of Sean Penn, if Penn draped himself in wrapped scarfs. Kinda of hard to picture Aronofsky with Rachel Weisz who embodies such an Ivy League quality. Of course, if she was looking to marry a super talented director, than she chose very well.
Q: Was the film Perfect Blue an inspiration for this film?
A: Not really, there are similarities between the films, but it wasn’t influenced by it. It really came out of Swan Lake the Ballet, we wanted to dramatize the ballet, that’s why it’s kind of up here and down there, because ballet is big and small in lots of ways.
Q: What was your favorite scene in the film?
A: I like the night of terror, when everything goes really crazy and her leg snaps back. It just makes me giggle at the end of it cause it’s just so f%*! up.
Q: Hi I’m Andrea and I was in The Wrestler.
A: Oh, Hey Andrea.
Q: I just want to say I thought it was awesome!
A: What, The Wrestler ? Or you in The Wrestler? (laughter)
Q: How long did Natalie Portman train for this role?
A: (addresses question to PA Ballet company in the audience) How did she do dancers, was she ok? (General sounds of approval) This is what I say about it, if you’re a lay person, you’ll believe it. If your a dancer you’ll give her credit for working f’ ing hard. I can see the problems, but she did a really good job. She had a year of training. It wasn’t supposed to be a year, but it was really hard to raise the money, so every time we pushed it back 3 months, she’d go back to existing on carrot sticks.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the music in terms of the score by Clint Mansell?
A: One of the major reasons I did the film was for Clint, my composer, because I knew it was going to be a big challenge to take one of the great masterpieces ever written by Tchaikovsky and to turn it into movie music. Clint deconstructed the piece, because if you play the music over normal scenes it’s just too overwrought. So he basically took those melodies, themes and ideas stripped them down and added his own stuff. Then we went to London and recorded with an 80 piece orchestra, which was amazing. So the score kinda weaves in and out of Clint’s manipulation of Tchaikovsky to real Tchaikovsky, rearranged so that darker tones come out. It was a pretty cool project.
Q: Regarding the hand held camera work.
A: Well I did that in The Wrestler (click for T & T post on film) wanted to show the effort, the emotion. Very few people get to see that up close. I was lucky, I got to stand backstage at the Bolshoi and at The Met and see how hard it is. I wanted to translate that to the audience. These dancers, they work their whole lives to make things look effortless. So when you see it you think, that’s no big deal. But when you actually see it up close and see what their muscles are doing; the intense pain and pleasure mixed all in one, it’s an amazing thing.
Q: Why the fascination with toe nails and finger nails?
A: I don’t know. (laughter) I do know that one of the dancers gave me her toe nail at the end of the shoot. It was really nasty. (jokingly) I think she thought it was charming, but she’ll never get another job from me. (turning back to Andrea) And maybe you won’t either Andrea.
Q: Regarding sex scene between Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman. How does the sensuality relate to her madness?
A: (slyly) Repeat the question. Um.. let’s see.. well, it’s very much a coming of age story. A girl stuck in a woman’s body. I think we see that a lot with boys becoming men, but rare to see it from a girl’s point of view; and of course a big part of that is sexuality. And uh. . . so that’ what we explored and so… I’m blushing a little bit.
Q: What is your previous experience with ballet?
A: My sister was a ballet dancer when I was a kid. She danced all through high school and I would walk by and see the point shoes and never understood it. So when I first started making features I thought doing something in the ballet world would be interesting to explore…. Most of the time when you go to an industry and say – “Hey, I want to make a movie about you”, they open up the doors and you can go anywhere. The ballet world was like “No thank you”. They really don’t care about movies, or much else outside of ballet. It’s a very intense and insular world. . . No one was interested in helping us out except The Pennslyvania Ballet and luckily they were on break, if they were in the middle of their season, forget about.
Q: Why the title Black Swan?
A: Next question.

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

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Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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