TIFF SPECIAL: Black Swan review

Story and illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

After months of hearing about Rodarte‘s foray into costume design, this week the anticipation became reality as I excitedly watched the design house’s tutus in motion in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

This psychological thriller stars Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers, a professional dancer at a New York City ballet company, whose life is completely consumed by her career. Every night, she returns home alone, where she lives with her overly protective mother (Barbara Hershey), and leads a sheltered, isolated life, seemingly frozen in childhood.

When principal dancer Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) unexpectedly retires from the company, artistic director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) looks for a new dancer to star as the Swan Queen in his raw interpretation of Swan Lake. Desperate for the role, Nina is faced with a challenge.
Innocent and inexperienced, she is able to personify Odette, the White Swan character perfectly. But despite her strong technique, she has difficulty embodying Odile, the seductive and manipulative Black Swan. Enter Lily (Mila Kunis).

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TIFF SPECIAL: The top 5 most stylish films

Story by Justine Iaboni. Natalie Portman in Black Swan/all photography courtesy of TIFF.

Ever since Tom Ford ruled the celluloid catwalk with last year’s A Single Man, I’ve been waiting for the chance to applaud a handful of films solely for their ability to be stylish. This isn’t like some best costume award—I’m talking pure aesthetic bliss, that may or may not manifest itself in a sequined, off-the-shoulder dress and a crisp tux or two.

1. Black Swan (2010) U.S.A.

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder.

There are many reasons why Black Swan will undoubtedly be a festival favourite this year—early buzz from Venice, top tier performances, and a seriously stylish pedigree. Aronofsky thrusts his drop-dead gorgeous cast into a grotesque vision of the performer’s psyche; everything we see on screen is increasingly imbued by this motif, including the costumes. Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sisters behind Rodarte, designed all the ballet costumes, which seem to be right on the mark considering the dichotomies that run through the film between the white swan and the black swan; innocence and subterfuge; Portman and Kunis. Rodarte’s collections have always balanced soft, pastel fabrics and often whimsical designs with a darker, edgier aesthetic employing spikes and knits with lots of runs in them—perfect for a dancer’s attire.

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