Today (11th) is Mother’s Day in the UK, and I am exploring a mother-daughter relationship on screen. At times, this relationship is sweet and inspiring, at other times – it is challenging and even devastating. Recent films that explore (partially or otherwise) a mother-daughter relationship include “Lady Bird” and “I, Tonya”, and the question arises – what other movies do the same? In no particular order:
I. Terms of Endearment (1983)
This is a comical tearjerker of a movie about the relationship of a mother and her daughter (Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger), and its enduring nature. Underneath, the movie is about many things, such as accepting people for who they are and making peace. The film also features the performance from Jack Nicholson.
II. Mildred Pierce (1945)
The film perhaps shows a more destructive mother-daughter relationship, but a relationship nevertheless. Joan Crawford gives an outstanding performance as the mother of a spoiled daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) who only thinks about social-climbing and is ashamed of her mother’s blue-collar profession. Will there be a time when Veda goes too far and Mildred snaps?
Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 feature “Black Swan” is an Academy Award-nominated film, telling the story of a young ballerina Nina Sayers, whose transformation from a shy ballet dancer to a leading heroine ballerina of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” production causes a psycho-sexual breakdown. “Perfect Blue” is a 1997 Japanese animated movie based on a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, telling the story of Mima Kirigoe, whose rapid descent from an admired pop-idol into a “tarnished” rookie actress has disastrous consequences.
In this piece, I will compare the two films closely, arguing that the two films share substantial similarities in terms of the plot, character, style, design, execution and the little details, pointing to the conclusion that “Perfect Blue” was – at the very least – the direct and main inspiration for “Black Swan” (and even something much more than that), though Aronofsky himself denied the claim. Going further, the similarities are so striking that it could even be said that Aronofsky essentially re-made “Perfect Blue”, but changed the setting to a ballet, and re-modelled some characters, disguising them as others.
Black Swan (2010)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (‘Requiem for a Dream’ (2000)), ‘Black Swan’ is an ambitious psychological horror film promising to submerge the viewer into the world of classical ballet, game of sexual seduction and pure psychological delirium, but has it delivered?
In ‘Black Swan’, Natalie Portman plays Nina, a ballet dancer in a respected dance company headed by Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel). Leroy is to stage a new production of ‘Swan Lake’, and chooses Nina as his Swan Queen. Although Leroy is sure that Nina can dance the beautiful, fragile and innocent White Swan, he is not convinced that she can dance the Black Swan, who is a confident, strong, seductive and lustful ‘twin’ of the White Swan. There is also another ballerina in the company, named Lily (Mila Kunis), who seems to fit the Black Swan image perfectly. She is more in-tune with her sensual nature and is more relaxed on stage than Nina. There is also Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder), a retiring ballerina, who is both the source of Nina’s inspiration and a warning for her. As Nina’s debut in ‘Swan Lake’ approaches, Nina’s domineering mother (Barbara Hershey) exert more and more pressure on her, and Nina’s acquaintance with Lily produces some unexpected results, leading to Nina’s rapid physical and psychological breakdown/metamorphosis.
With the nominations for the Academy Awards 2012 coming up in January 2012, it is a convenient time to review and comment on the Academy Awards 2011. Here, the focus will be on two categories: “Best Picture” and “Best Actress in a Leading Role”.
As it is well-known, ‘The King’s Speech’ won the Academy Award in the “Best Picture” category in 2011, and other runner-ups were ‘Black Swan’, ‘The Fighter’, ‘The Kids Are All Right’, ‘True Grit’, ‘Inception’, ‘Toy Story 3’, ‘Winter’s Bone’, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘127 Hours’. It could be argued that ‘The King’s Speech’ won the Award not because it represented some exceptional cinematographic achievement, but simply because it had no real serious competitors in that year – in the eyes of the Academy. To put it simply, ‘The King’s Speech’ won the “Best Picture” Award not because it was so good, but because other films in its category did not conform in any way to the Academy’s ideas of what the “Best Picture” winner should look like. That “ideal” was set in the past. Though such things happen at the Oscars every year, arguably, the year 2010 has seen some of the worst examples of cinematography compared to the past thirty years, with the Academy Awards’ standards falling the lowest since the early 1980s.