‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 320

#318/ 365 – ‘The Pianist’ (2002) – 150 mins
IMDb Challenge #196 / 250 – Ranked #54 – Lovefilm

Based upon the true story of concert pianist and Polish Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody). As the Nazis lay the groundwork for the Final Solution, Szpilman evades imprisonment in the Warsaw ghetto and begins a precarious existence on the increasingly war-ravaged streets of Poland.

Roman Polanski’s, The Pianist is easily comparable to that of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, ‘Schindler’s List’, in that it is uncomfortably successful at manifesting the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust. However the themes and perspectives of the two films are quite different. The Pianist is not about heroics, it’s just about a man and renowned Pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman unlike so many others, happened to live through the chaos.

There are truly horrific acts of violence, but one of the great accomplishments of the film is how it Polanski makes the threat of starvation just as harrowing.

#319/ 365 – ‘Black Swan’ (2010) – 108 mins
IMDb Challenge #197 / 250 – Ranked #51 – DVD Collection

Fragile dancer Nina (Natalie Portman) lives a sheltered, ballet-obsessed life with her, ex-ballerina mother (Barbara Hershey). When Nina is promoted to prima — replacing the older Beth (Winona Ryder) — for a new production of Swan Lake, her director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), urges her to explore her dark side so that she can better embody the dual role of the Swan Queen and the Black Swan. This, combined with her concern over the ambitions of a new arrival at the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), pushes Nina towards breaking point.

I’m being lazy! As the following review of Black Swan is just a copy of my original review from Day 26 – as this was watched as part of the cinematic part of the challenge.

Black Swan is a bizarrely different kind of experience and one we come to expect from Director Darren Aronofsky (‘Requiem for a Dream, ‘The Wrestler’) as he takes you to the edge and back, in this tale of obsession and ultimately how it can completely give a person a break-down like no other. Natalie Portman richly deserved the Best Actress Oscar at this years Academy Awards, as she embodies the role of Nina flawlessly, by making you actually believe she is actually having this incredible metamorphosis to her dark side.

Portman is backed up an equally impressive supporting cast, Barbara Hershey is excellent and scary as Nina’s extremely over protective mother. Mila Kunis (‘The Book of Eli’) is surprisingly good as Nina’s arch rival Lily.

What Aronofsky as served up here is technically and visually perfect and this is none more evident in the opening scene, from a long continuous shot of Nina dancing the White Swan to which he continues to take you on this ride of striking imagery throughout. But it’s in the films final thirty minutes that it really takes hold as Arnonsky ramps up the pace and tension all to pulsating and superbly constructed Clint Mansell (‘Moon’, ‘The Wrestler’) score.

Black Swan is a very dark, intense, compelling, seductive and breathless piece of cinema.

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