Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Black Swan

In Black Swan, emotionally fragile ballerina, Nina Sayers, compellingly played by the translucent Natalie Portman, falls apart as she strives to embody both the White and Black swans in a prestigious production of Swan Lake. This would be the stuff of docu-drama or soap-opera, were it not directed by Darren Aronofsky, a filmmaker not known for his restraint when depicting obsessiveness. Thus there’s plenty of close-up-and-personal camera-work, both on and off stage, and emphasis on the perfectionist self-harm inherent in the profession, as well as much clever use of mirrors and just-glimpsed doppelgangers as Nina loses touch with her identity. Vincent Cassell, as usual, plays the Devil, this time as a sexually provocative choreographer; Mila Kunis is excellent as Nina’s vivacious rival, her complete opposite (she eats, laughs, has sex etc.); Winona Ryder has fun as her suicidal predecessor; and Barbara Hershey is a satisfyingly not-quite-monstrous stage mother, ambitious for her daughter, and wounded from her own failures of the past, but still looking on in horror as Nina stampedes towards self-destruction. The film appears to suggest that the central character’s apparent conviction that Art is more important than Life is mistaken, given her escalating insanity, but the relish with which Aronofsky tells the tale - The Red Shoes with more than a touch of  Saw - suggests that he’s ambivalent on the matter. Never less than fascinating.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baker Boys

First outing of 2011 – I was lucky enough to be invited to a B.A.F.T.A. Cymru preview screening of the first episode of Baker Boys, a new three-part series for BBC Wales, co-written by Gary Owen (one of Wales’ most performed playwrights) and Helen (Torchwood, Doctor Who) Raynor. Telling the story of the aftermath of the closure of a large bakery - the only major source of employment in a small Valleys town - it’s inspired by a number of local news stories of the past few years (Ferrari’s Bakery, Burberry, Tower Colliery), as outlined by the authors in the post-screening Q&A session (which also featured contributions from BBC Wales business correspondent Nick Servini and cast-members Boyd Clack and Gareth Jewell), and is firmly rooted in recession-hit blue-collar Britain, although with an optimistic slant. Engaging performances, subtle writing, slick direction, and a general disdain for stereotypes – but bizarrely, it’s scheduled for broadcast only in Wales at the moment, despite its universal theme and the presence of a number of nationally familiar faces (Eve Myles, Mark Lewis Jones, Steven Meo, Cara Readle). This being an era where "quality" drama seems to be defined in terms of either period costume or extreme grimness, Baker Boys, if the clips we saw of episode two are anything to go by, could be unusual in that it has the potential to actually inspire.