Monday, February 14, 2011

Black Swan, St. Valentine's Day and Perfection

I simply had to write a post about "Black Swan", the latest love-it-or-hate-it film that has several Oscar nominations.
In short, I did not love it. 
Black Swan Promo
"Black Swan" is billed as a 'psycho-sexual thriller' or some such nonsense. I found it to be quite the opposite.
However, "Black Swan" has disturbed me, albeit not for the reasons it should have bothered me. 
It could have been a phenomenal movie. There are many underlying issues that are buried deep under the surface of "Black Swan". Not one of them was explored in depth. 
Instead, "Black Swan" careens from one tense scene to the next, glossing over potentially deep and truly dark themes in favor of popular sensationalism.
"Black Swan" revolves around Nina, our heroine ballerina, who is a technical perfectionist and quite skillful. Nina's Ballet Master, believes that Nina does not 'lose control'. Ever. Nina's inability to lose control forms the film's surface focus.
I say "surface" because we never get to see what drives Nina to be so obsessively controlled.
That exploration could have elevated "Black Swan" to heights of greatness.
Ballet's rigorous training, discipline, ego, drive, stamina, the quest for youth and the continuous pursuit of the demon that is perfection must be hellish.
As with so many demanding fields, the final product  appears effortless and exquisitely beautiful to the audience. There is no trace of the grueling, all-consuming effort that gives birth to the creation.
The ugly side of ballet might be compared to the gritty side of modeling - the obsession with physical perfection and youth. In modeling, the human being is reduced to a coat hanger or body parts. However, a dancer is an artistic athlete. Just a little pressure, eh?
I have always felt a certain empathy and sympathy for anyone whose vocation is ballet. 
For many years, I believed that my particular calling to be a metalsmith was tortuous. That is, until the reality of the world and lifestyle of  ballet was revealed to me. 
For those readers unfamiliar with ballet, I would recommend researching George Balanchine, the Russian choreographer, co-founder and Ballet Master of The New York City Ballet. There are a few biographies on Balanchine, including  two excellent ones by Robert Gottlieb and Bernard Taber.
Indeed, George Balanchine  is credited with creating modern ballet, basing it on classical forms and techniques that endure to this day.
Mission: Perfection Impossible.
Swan Lake London 2007
Therein lies the pervasive story line of "Black Swan":  the attainment of perfection, a subject very near and dear to my heart.  Hence, the byline of this blog.
As I write this post on St. Valentine's Day - which, by the way, I still believe is a real holiday that Hallmark merely exploited - I am thinking of perfection. I am thinking about love, specifically self-love.
The desire for improvement in this life can be noble.
My Father used to say that one should never occupy a place (a building, a workplace, a relationship, a neighborhood, a planet, a life, a space in time) without leaving it better for being there.
It is this standard to which I aspire.
Long ago, I was struck by the knowledge that I would never be able to make a perfect piece (metalsmithing). Now, this was a profound realization for a young artist in a demanding and competitive field. From that point forward, I decided to embrace and even emphasize imperfection in all of my work.
Several decades later, I know that unique beauty is found in imperfection.
Looking back, perhaps I have not given "Black Swan" enough credit.
Perhaps the Ballet Master was encouraging the heroine to 'let loose' in order to find that unique beauty which only shines through in imperfection.
Like most artists, I am my harshest critic.
I must love my personal and quite human imperfections for they make me unique.
That is a huge that can certainly leave any space I occupy better.
Today, I begin my journey.

Black Swan
In Love, Truth and Beauty..........
Images Courtesy of Wikipedia

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