Black Swan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Due to the photographic choices here, I found it tough to grade Swan.
That said, I suspect the Blu-ray replicated the director’s desires, unappealing as the results may have been. Sharpness was erratic. Close-ups tended to be reasonably accurate, but even those lacked much clarity. Much of the presentation looked rather soft and fuzzy. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, but I noticed some light edge haloes at times.
No concerns with print flaws materialized, but the movie was awfully grainy. That was an obvious stylistic choice, but I can’t say it wasn’t a distraction. The grain affected many aspects of the presentation.
Such as colors. Granted, the film’s palette always wanted to be subdued, so even without all the grain, you wouldn’t expect much from the hues. They tended to be flat and pale much of the time, though the stage productions offered more dynamic tones. Blacks were decent – though a bit drab – and shadows were somewhat tough to discern, again largely due to the grain. I went with a “C” grade here because the image may’ve replicated the director’s intentions but it was too ugly to merit higher marks.
Less equivocal thoughts greeted the pretty good DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Swan. Obviously, music opened up the spectrum well, especially during performance sequences. Effects played a more prominent role than expected, as those elements cropped up in appropriate places and blended well. A nightclub scene used the room nicely, and others on the subway or “inside Nina’s head” also contributed a positive use of the five channels. These connected neatly and created a positive environment.
Sound quality satisfied. Music was bright and bold, while effects appeared accurate and well-defined; these all contributed nice vivacity and depth. Speech seemed concise and distinctive, without edginess or other issues. The track wasn’t quite immersive enough for anything above a “B”, but it was still more involving than one would expect from a movie about ballet.
When we shift to extras, we open with a 48-minute, 55-second documentary called Metamorphosis. It includes statements from director Darren Aronofsky, producer Scott Franklin, cinematographer Matty Libatique, editor Andy Weisblum, writer Mark Heyman, production designer Therese Deprez, assistant choreographer Kurt Froman, LookFX visual FX supervisor Dan Schrecker, prosthetic FX artist Mike Marino, 3D artist Shawn Lipowski, and actors Natalie Portman, Winona Ryder, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel. The show looks at the film’s roots and story, cinematography and the shooting schedule, editing and production design, cast and performances, the use of mirrors, choreography, dancing and training, and various effects.
Despite a long list of participants, we don’t get a ton of comments in “Metamorphosis” – at least not until the show looks at effects. That was its chattiest and most informative component. Otherwise, the show emphasized shots from the set, and that worked fine. We got some interesting glimpses behind the scenes and enough info to make this a reasonably useful program.
Most of the remaining extras take the shape of short featurettes. The first three look at aspects of the production. We find Ballet (2:33), Production Design (3:59) and Costume Design (3:55). Across these, we hear from Aronofsky, Portman, Kunis, Cassel, DePrez, and costume designer Amy Westcott. “Ballet” is essentially just a glorified trailer, but the other two – which follow obvious topics – are more positive. They’re all promo pieces, but at least the last two have merit.
Two Profiles follow. We find one for Natalie Portman (3:16) and one for Darren Aronofsky (2:48). Portman discusses her character and performance, while Aronofsky looks at his interest in the movie and some production elements. Not much of interest appears here; these clearly promote the movie.
Next we get two chats between Portman and Aronofsky under the banner Conversation. These cover “Preparing for the Role” (3:53) and “Dancing with the Camera” (1:35). The clips get into training and how Portman performed for the camera. Neither delivers great material, but they have some decent notes and deserve a look.
Five Fox Movie Channel Presents clips ensue. These cover “Natalie Portman” (5:56), “Winona Ryder” (2:17), “Barbara Hershey” (3:37), “Vincent Cassel” (4:43) and “Darren Aronofsky” (6:23). The actors discuss their roles and work, while the director goes over some general areas. The Ryder and Hershey pieces lack much depth, but the others offer reasonable material.
The disc opens with ads for 127 Hours, Love and Other Drugs and the FX Channel. We also get the movie’s trailer and some promos under Sneak Peek. That area includes clips for Conviction, Never Let Me Go, Casino Jack and Street Kings 2.
The package provides a Digital Copy of Swan on Disc Two. It lets you transfer the movie to a computer or portable viewing gadget. Whoopee!
Essentially Showgirls with many more pretensions and much less skin, Black Swan goes down as one of the worst Oscar nominees in years. Absurd, silly and downright laughable most of the time, the movie fails in most possible ways. The Blu-ray comes with adequate picture, good audio and a reasonably informative set of supplements. Maybe someday I’ll comprehend why a big stinking pile of awfulness like this inspired so much praise, but not today.