Portman's Neurotic Obsession: Black Swan (2010, 108 minutes) A hallucinatory, beautiful film structured around the struggles of an up-and-coming ballet dancer, played by Natalie Portman, as she vacillates wildly between utter devotion to her craft, harried target of her mother's displaced ambition, and a obsession/hatred relationship with the studio's secondary star, played by Mila Kunis. From the description alone, one might be forgiven for expecting a straight-up drama, plodding dully over the white-people-problems of artificially esteemed high art, but there's just a touch of... vertigo here. A lingering impression of disorientation, a slight seaward cant of the story and the characters that begins an uncontrolled precessing outside the realm of normal drama. Portman's stress, devotion, and neurosis become uncomfortably intertwined with the awkward unfolding of a repressed sexuality, and her emotional confusion towards her rival, Kunis, begin manifesting as something a bit more... intense, a bit more... erotic, a bit more... unbalanced. Though a bit slow to start, the film heralds Darren Aranofsky's return to the realm of the truly mental and reveals a director better with the 'light touch' than in Requiem for a Dream, and better at shaping an entire graceful work than in Pi.
Jack's Sense of Entitlement: Fight Club (1999, 139 minutes) David Fincher, another director famous for head-trippery, best seen in his grotesque explosion of the police procedural into the realm of horror (Se7en), directs a book by Chuck Palahniuk, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Norton, a pathologically lonely insomniac claims adjuster entirely benumbed to the horror of modern life by the analytical manner in which his job forces him to evaluate human tragedy is shaken out of his complacency by a chance encounter with a complete philosophical anarchist (Pitt) during a cross country flight. Abandoning his previous life to throw in with this anarchist, Norman finds himself oddly freed from his neurosis and first-world concerns, and almost accidentally participates in the founding of an underground bare-knuckle fighting circuit with oddly cult-like membership of similarly benumbed modern men. Then things start to get out of hand. A film commonly misconstrued as a simplistic, chauvinistic assertion of male ego recovery through meaningless violence, a close analysis of the film reveals an almost total inversion of this assumption. While crude, confusing, and frequently disgusting and violent, the film sports a much deeper, nihilistic psychosis of a philosophy, reveling in the morass of self-conscious modern neurosis and gleefully dancing around the eventual implosion of any attempt to break free. Essentially a study on the collapse of pop psychology, disguised as a misanthropic self-help seminar.
WARNING: Will try to start on time, as the flicks are a little longer than usual.