Monday, November 29, 2010

And Then There Were Two: Fashion and Fragmentation in Black Swan

I was blessed to get advanced screening tickets, in what I can only assume was an early Hanukkah gift from the universe, to see "Black Swan" last night and chose to attend when I should have stayed home to work on a paper (ironically) about dissociative disorder that is due a week earlier then I thought it was. Insert me crying. In fact there were a multitude of scenes in the movie that can articulate the graduate school experience. My favorite, and apparently one of the film's more squeamish scenes, was the use of dermatillomania (skin-picking for those who don't have the DSM-IV tattooed in their gulliver) along with the seemingly real bleeding cuticles that haunt the first half of the movie. My hands end up looking like Freddy Krueger whenever there's a paper looming over me, or say....forgetting the due date to one. At the risk of writing any spoilers to the movie we all know that girl is trippin'- right? We all GOT that from the trailer? I'm not ruining it for anybody...well unless you were some nice, white, middle-aged women that saw it last night and evidently assumed that it was a film about pretty ballerinas. Then my most sincere apologies,'s not.

One aspect of the film that resonates quite physically with the audience is the sense of vertigo that occurs through the camera work, and the literal spinning of the ballet moves. This seems to have also upset many of the movie-goers last night who along wth being uncomfortable at seeing female masturbation can't handle the shaky camera technique last seen in "Requiem for a Dream". I appreciated the disequilibrium that the spinning envoked, and its' consequential allignment with Nina's character who is quite literally spinning out of control. Aronofsky forces the viewer the remain in the character's tightly controlled and ragingly fearful world in which self-mutilation, anorexia, and panic attacks are as natural as brushing your teeth. The strength of the film is in the message that it conveys of the complexity of female sexuality, and in turn the way upon which society constucts our ability to express it. The dissociative nature of the main character is painful to watch as the conscious and unconscious pirouette into a perfectly controlled chaos. Perhaps what resonates the most is the way upon which females continue to be defined by these constraints, not only at the hands of guys, but our fellow ladies as well.

In Thomas Mann's novella of the same name the concept of societal attitudes on aging and the awakening of female sexuality are fleshed out just as they are expressed by Nina, and in a role akin to the mother in Haneke's "The Piano Teacher", the character's mother. The overwhelming sense of the expiration date of the ballerina, which is brilliantly articulated by Nina's mother (a former dancer), the previous principal ballerina who is ousted (Winona Ryder's part), and finally Portman's role that hinges desperately on gaining the role of the Swan Queen. Each of these women exemplify the terrifying experience of aging out and as Mann wrote, eventually being eaten alive by our own determination to remain ripe.
The result is one that speaks very specifically to the female audience as a personal reminder of the looming nature that time controls, and consequently the lengths we go to remain youthful and relevant (in North America, that is). The devestation of lost dreams and the ways upon which we bribe, cajole, and court our own youth through self-destruction, and what now seems to be the trend of invidious consumption. For me, I can't help but be influenced from a psychological perspective of the metaphorical murder of our mothers as part of our own separation-individuation and our own Electra complex. In the end, I am reminded of "Irreversible"s conclusive statement. TIME. DESTROYS. ALL. THINGS.

I decided to attempt my own version at fashion fragmentation because I'm still 8 years old and playing dress up. White Swan wears a Marc Jacobs headpiece, Marc Jacobs "Swan print" Dress (Detail Below), and thanks to the bookcase I am successfully en pointe. I was not, nor have I ever been in ballet...that is not a possibility when you grow up, let's say, "lower working class". You feel me.
Black Swan wears a headpiece from Paris department store Printemps, a tulle and feather Cynthia Rowley dress, and Dior shoes.
I haven't quite figured out how to wear the swan dress out in public, being 4ft. 11" it just doesn't have the same effect as it did on the models from the runway. Also it has side slits to my lower buttocks and shows my tattoos, which...I usually don't. The simple answer is to have the slits sewn shut and to hem it, but them again I'm stubborn when it comes to irresponsible and irrational purchases. Sue me.

Oh geez, I think this is from Spring 2008, the show where Mr. Jacobs cleverly reversed the model order on the crazy train, most likely giving editors a fright thinking the man was running out to say the show was cancelled. Most recently the image of the swan has shown up on a terribly contrived dress from the Spring 2011 Miu Miu collection which, in my humble opinion, was lazy and derivative. I'm not putting a picture up because 1. you can see it for yourself on 2. it's already on 3,473 blogs by now 3. because the collection shouldn't be marveled at merely because Miuccia caught wind of popular culture and threw a swan on a dress. I say these things because I love Miuccia. She was a former Communist..just like me. It's tough love and I know hardly anyone else will call out the nudie Emperor.
Anyway, I digress. The swan is a naturally feminine symbol especially in the case of a pair necking creating the formation of a heart, and we all know what a heart is derived from...oy vey! These archetypes! In terms of its historical reputation the swan represents beauty, grace, tranquility, purity, and above all transformation...the symbolism in dreams echoes that of the unconscious vying for the dreamer's attention towards looking into the water for a deeper sense of self. It's no wonder that the animal is an innate characterization of beauty, thus continuing to represent an iconoclastic muse for designers.

And finally meet Wellington, my giant Victorian stuffed swan. He becomes incredibly dusty and not in the Springfield way. I admit that I've personified Wellington to a certain degree, but that's only because he's so damn dignified looking. Naturally, this makes me a slightly looney "swan lady". I'll accept that and leave you with one of my absolute favorite bands...Giant Drag and their stunning rendition of "Swan Song" .
It's true,
ps. I hope nothing got ruined for anyone. No tears. Please.


  1. Pretty outfits, i love the feather skirt and head piece in the black outfit. love.


  2. You write so well! I really want to see this movie now. I like your blog, Following x

  3. fantastic writing as always! i want to read ur paper can i when u finish? i am so looking forward to black swan in australia everything takes 100 years to get here so im developing lots of patience... btw wellington is a beauty isn't he?! i especially like the way he's rocking back on his heels and his slightly evil gaze. he's got 'da funk' he should have been on the thriller film clip
    xxxx hope u make that sail dress:)
    xx winnsomesmile

  4. Aahna: Gracias lady! Cynthia Rowley has a really beautiful collection of feather pieces right now...they're the perfect combination of beautiful and impractical!
    Asha: The film is just incredible...I'm going to a second viewing on Saturday! Thanks for digging my junk!
    Emma: I am seriously considering attempting it, although I showed the picture to my guy and he said, "I'm only supporting you on this one if you wear it topless" the cad!!!

  5. This provocative image is linked to the ebook/INovel Butcher Boys & Golddigger Girls, ( ) a detective novel that takes place in New York City in 1927, because it helps the reader visualize the action.