The results are in from my Divafest film weekend.
Funny enough both films featured a few feathers and both films have a lead female performer full of ambition. Comparisons stop there!
BLACK SWAN & BURLESQUE.
First up is BLACK SWAN.
Praised by most critics and high up on the award seasons list of nominations and wins so far. Virtuoso director Darren Aronofsky and his wonderful leading lady Natalie Portman team to reveal the reality (and unreality) of the world of ballet. The result is a brilliantly made grand guignol campfest. Sophistocated psychological thrillers have been few and far between since the 70’s so it is a pleasure to see this one succeed. Portman stars as Nina, an extremely driven ballerina given the chance to dance the lead role in the ballet “Swan Lake”. Technically brilliant in the role of the white swan, it is the part of the black swan which she also has to tackle that causes the problems. Egged on by her tough choreographer (Vincent Cassell) to explore her sexual dark side, the poor frigid Nina, with an over protective mother (perfectly cast Barbara Hershey) goes batty over the prospect of fully succeeding in the part. Paranoid that her understudy (the sexually liberated Lily – a breakout performance from Mila Kunis) is out to take over the coveted role. Her mind conjures up all sorts of hallucinations and mayhem, making for high entertainment and cinematic thrills. From the very beginning the film has you on edge and after a night out with her nemesis the film goes full tilt into a frenzy that never lets up till the final image. I was gobsmacked and loved every minute. The performance of Natalie Portman is a revelation, this talented actress has never been better. Her vulnerability, her fears, her yearnings all register perfectly and you never feel that she is “acting” which would have been very easy to do. It is an over the top role and she underplays it to perfection. All the performances are good, Winona Ryder as a defunct diva registers in a small part. The bold production design of black, white and tones of red (pinks) are thoughtfully realised by Therese DePrez. Costumes are detailed and the cinematography is sensational. All around it is a truly great film experience. Darren Aronofsky, thank you very much.
Now for BURLESQUE.
Starring 2 divas, one old and one new, Cher & Christina Aguelira. This cliched load of crap is a borefest, not even a boring campfest, just a b0ring film. Of course I expected all the cliches of the genre – girl travels from middle America to make it as a singer and dancer in LA. She arrives on the Sunset Strip and enters the door of a down on its luck Burlesque theatre run by a jaded and tired showgirl with the bank threatining to close it down and a property developer on her tail to sell. Of course the homespun sweetheart has a voice of gold and can kick up her heels like a rockette, and of course she saves the day. Along the way there are gay men full of witty lines (hardly witty in this case), bitchy catfighting amongst the dancers and a cute boyfriend on the sidelines. You get the picture. The problem with Burlesque is that it is dull, even the derivative show numbers are flat as a tack. While you might think that watching grand diva Cher sing a song or two without moving a face muscle could be fun, well that wears as thin as Miss Aguelira’s character’s personality. It is a scandal to see Stanley Tucci walking through his role with barely a spark of fun, and why was Alan Cumming (Broadway’s emcee in the “Cabaret” revival) cast at all?
It has no really camp fun moments to lift it up to become an entertaining bad film (a la “Showgirls”) it is just a bad film trying to be camp. You can see the writer/director Steve Antin rubbing his hands when he thinks he has ticked all the boxes to please both the gay audience and the female fans who salivate over this crap.
The only hope for me is that possibly it will be nominated for a song award at the Oscars and Cher will perform it on the night which will mean that she will turn up on the red carpet in another outrageous Bob Mackie masterpiece…fingers crossed for that one.