The Red Shoes

Camera as Psychosis: The Cinematography of Black Swan

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As she makes her way through the backstage behind the curtain at State University of New York at Purchase, one can tell all is not right with Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman). The camera trails in front her, sycophantically, as she is replete with hypnotic beauty in black and white, still standing out from the grey walls and dark surroundings. Her body quivers powerfully and almost orgasmically. The only thing the audience needs to see is Nina’s eyes to see nothing is right, even as her arms transform, and the camera steps forwards briefly to gaze upon the face that is covered in makeup to reveal that Nina has mutated into something else entirely. But is it real? Who is really seeing this? The cinematography in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan plays a crucial role in understanding the film’s depiction of psychosis. Nina is one of Aronofsky’s least sane characters, but utilizing various camera tricks and a kind of meta-reflexivity, there is a subtle insanity that works behind each shot to confuse the audience as much as Nina is, while the vérité style with which it is shot allows the film’s foundation to be primarily subjective. Few films play up schlocky horror against dramatic portrayals of mental illness so well, and Black Swan is one of them.

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The Liebster Award

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(I’ve been dying to say this again…)

Boxer turned filmmaker Alex Withrow, who also blogs and tweets and is all around an amazing guy, was kind enough to bestow upon me the Liebster Blog Award. “What is it?”, you may ask. Well, it’s this (I’m new to this as well, so):

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award:
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to.
4. Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post.
5. Go to their page and tell them.
6. No tag backs.

11 Random Things About Me

  1. I drink hot chocolate all times during the year.
  2. When I graduated from 8th grade (I went to a private school), my teacher created acrostic poems for each of the four graduates. Everyone else got really nice compliments and the like. When it came to my name, the word she chose for L was Lazy. I was a little shocked. Kind of ruined graduation…
  3. I measure success by word counts!
  4. When I interned on a short film shoot earlier this summer, everyone on set thought I was 14.
  5. I’m a hopeless romantic, but I have turned into an embittered cynic.
  6. To me, passive aggression is a sport.
  7. I like long walks, books, and conversation.
  8. My father died from a car crash in 2009. He would take me to the movie theater  alot.
  9. I would literally sell myself for Criterion discs. (Sad, I know.)
  10. I’m a tee-totaler. My tolerance for alcohol is like my tolerance for most humans: almost nonexistent.
  11. I quip and say sarcastic/snarky things a lot by reflex, and then I can never remember what I actually said that my friends found funny.

Alex Withrow’s Questions (You can see more of his stuff at

1. What is your favorite film of all time? Just one. Go.

It will always, always be Howard Hawks’ screwball masterpiece Bringing Up Baby. No person of woman born can get through that film without laughing their head off, and if they can, I think they should be deported.

2. What is your favorite song of all time? Just one. Go.

Ack, that’s a hard one. I guess I would have to say George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, a classical piece of jazz that accidentally manages to capture the beauty of New York.

3. Who is your favorite film director of all time?

Currently, Lars von Trier. His artistic audaciousness, experimentation with technique, his ability to get incredible performances from his actresses: he is just amazing.

4. What is the best television show you have ever seen?

My friend Tyler will be able to understand this one: the short lived, but incredibly funny Fawlty Towers, with John Cleese. The jokes are cutting and the wit is fast and furious. And it’s British, so therefore it must be good, right? (Runner-Up: Ingmar Bergman’s mini-series Fanny and Alexander.)

5. Which place would you feel more at ease: the woods of Deliverance, or Maynard’s basement in Pulp Fiction?

The basement in Pulp Fiction. Because I am small and relatively agile and I could get away. If not, then, well, I’m screwed. Literally…

6. What is the best portrayal of addiction you’ve ever seen on film?

A part of me hates saying this, and I know other people will hate me for it too. Michael Fassbender in Shame is one of the best portrayals of addiction I’ve seen on film. McQueen and Fassbender tap both into the visceral aspects of additcion (the sex scenes, the chronic masturbation) and the low key, almost commonplace aspects of addiction (the porn). It isn’t exactly the most dramatic portrayal of addiction ever seen on screen, but it’s subtle and effective.

7. Do you respond to comments left on your blog? If not, why?

Yes. I don’t get many comments though! Waaah. But I appreciate all people who do comment on it.

8. Were you born a movie fan, or was there an event (or specific film) that turned you on to films?

I like to say that I was conceived in 1938 and my mother just decided to, you know, wait until 1994 to deliver me. I would say I was pretty much born a cineaste. I grew up watching Harvey and Arsenic and Old Lace. Up until I was five, I was into cars, but ever since I was five or six, it’s been films. I was the only third grader who knew what he wanted to do for a living.

9. What’s the best looking film you’ve ever seen? Specifically is it relates to cinematography.

The best looking film would be a tie between Manhattan, The Tree of Life, and The Red Shoes. I guess I should include another black and white film to be fair, so the harsh looking Pi.

10. Do you own any Criterion DVDs or Blu-Rays? If so, how many?

OH YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I own something like 86.

11. What is your favorite Criterion movie cover?

Of the many…

  1.  The Night of the Hunter
  2. Modern Times
  3. Three Colors Trilogy
  4. Repulsion
  5. Vampyr
  6. Antichrist
  7. The Red Shoes
  8. Godzilla
  9. The Thin Red Line
  10. Pierrot le Fou

11 Winners of the Liebster Award (Keep your acceptance speeches short please… hahaha)

  1. Cinema Fanatic
  2. Sales on Film
  3. Magnolia Forever
  4. Cinema Enthusiast
  5. The Diary of a Film Cricket
  6. Cinema Sights
  7. I Am Sam Bell
  8. I Am a Rock
  9. Eisensteins
  10. The No-Name Movie Blog
  11. Defiant Success

My Questions

  1. How has film influenced day to day living?
  2. What film has had the most impact on who you are as a person?
  3. Godard or Truffaut? Why?
  4. What is your favorite era or wave in  film?
  5. What is a film you wish you liked more, but for some reason can’t?
  6. If you could remake a film, what film would it be, who would you cast for the leads, and what would you change about it?
  7. What is the best remake of a film you’ve seen and what did they do right with it?
  8. Are you a proponent of the auteur theory?
  9. If you could collaborate with a director on a project, who would it be and what would the project be?
  10. Do you prefer black and white cinematography or color?
  11. What is the most number of films you’ve watched in a single day?