Encapsulated Cinema: Rare Exports, Merantau, and Black Swan


People don’t believe me when I say that “Black Swan” is an awful motion picture. Out of all of the movies I’ve seen over the course of 2010, it’s easily the most disappointing. In order to give people perspective on what, exactly, I look for in a film, I’ve included two mini-reviews for a pair of flicks that have thoroughly and completely impressed yours truly. Maybe then you’ll understand why “Black Swan” didn’t settle well with me. Enjoy!

Rare Exports
Director Jalmari Helander’s Christmas-related horror outing has been on my cinematic radar for a while now, and my expectations were admittedly extremely high. Fortunately for me, this exceptionally entertaining tale of a murderous Santa Claus wreaking havoc in the Korvatunturi mountains delivered the goods in every way imaginable. The picture, which finds a young boy and his father attempting to wrangle the aforementioned holiday icon before his diabolical deeds can reach beyond their borders, strongly reminded me of a gorier, scarier version of Fred Dekker’s “The Monster Squad”. That, of course, is an extremely strong compliment. And while everyone in the flick does an incredible job of making this decidedly silly concept seem plausible, it’s young star Onni Tommila who shines the brightest. Add to that a few last-minute twists, a handful of gory surprises, and an ending that explains the picture’s unusual title and you’ve got a movie that has cemented its place in my holiday viewing schedule for years to come.

Emotionally-charged martial arts flicks are the bee’s knees, particularly if said motion picture comes packaged with several hearty slices of well-choreographed fights. Gareth Evans’ Indonesian kung fu outing “Merantau” certainly ranks with the best of them, stuffing as much action-oriented madness into this violent coming-of-age saga as humanly possible. Specifically, the film chronicles the adventures of a young man named Yuda, who is venturing out into the cruel world for the very first time. Not surprisingly, he soon finds himself locking horns with members of the local sex trade, a seedy bunch of individuals who are ill-prepared to handle our hero’s efficient and fluid brand of ass-kickery. Although the first half-hour may lead you to believe that you’re actually watching a touching family drama, the film soon picks up the pace, and before you know it, you’re knee-deep in broken bones and bloody concussions. And while the picture’s downbeat finale is somewhat disappointing, it actually suits the story very well. Impressive work.

Black Swan
Before putting together my Top 10 list for the year that was 2010, I decided to take in a screening of Darren Aronofsky’s latest effort “Black Swan”, a film which has received a lot of critical praise as of late. Truth be told, I simply cannot understand why. The film — a fetid yawner about a homely ballerina who loses her pretty little mind preparing for a performance of “Swan Lake” — is one of the most boring and woefully anti-climatic tales I’ve had to sit through all year. Not only is the picture predictable and hideously paced, lead bulimic Natalie Portman has all the sexuality of a pair of soiled penny loafers. What we have here, essentially, is a glossy and frequently pretentious adaptation of Nicholas Hytner’s 2000 teenage drama “Center Stage”, complete with built-in mommy issues and a goofy “hot for teacher” subplot. As devoted followers of all things Aronofsky, I am deeply disappointed. To be fair, every great director stumbles at some point in their career, so I’ll simply consider “Black Swan” to be the talented filmmaker’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and move on. Don’t believe the hype. At all.

Author: Todd Rigney

Todd was raised on a steady diet of Hollywood blockbusters, late-night Cinemax programming, and USA’s “Up All Night,” which may explain why his taste in movies is more than a little questionable. When he isn’t providing news and reviews for Beyond Hollywood, he can be found lounging lazily on his couch, perched in front of his television, or dwelling in places where direct sunlight can be easily avoided. He's happily married, in his 30's, and totally badass. If you'd like to reach Todd, you can follow him on Twitter or send him email/scoops to todd (at) beyondhollywood.com.
  • Kosmicgirl

    Would someone please tell me what the heck this movie was really about? It was not a bad movie, however I left completely confused about what was real and what was a figment of a mentally diseased mind. Was the mother really as bad as shown, or was some of what we saw just the manifestation of a mental breakdown?

  • mmabs

    “Black Swan” is a brilliant film. I found it to be a film about the debilitating prison of one’s mind. To see this film as literal and obvious or just a story about a ballerina, with mommy issues and teacher-love is to want to be spoonfed. For that, go watch a literal and obvious hollywood narrative film like-Centre Stage. A lot of bad hollywood films do spoonfeed their audiences. This was a fantastic character piece which explored the mind of a broken soul, using ballet as a backdrop. I simply loved it. give it a try, watch it with an open mind and you’ll see far deeper than what is on screen.

  • Synergy

    It sucked ASS. The end

  • mintgreen

    LOL. some dude trying to be dissenting, wanting to gain some attention.

  • Donapemam

    As a former ballet dancer, I was insulted by the “Psycho” and “Exorcist” style sadism of the scenes and felt manipulated by the maker(s) but at the same time appreciated the understated cultural theme of how this branch of show biz pits pubescent girls against one another in competition for “star” roles.

    This cultural emaciation and “pulping” of young girls is matched only by the “pulping” of young boys in the soccer world. In an ideal world of cooperation instead of the all-too-familiar “market” competition, this kind of child abuse would not be applauded. Certainly, this is not “nurturing2 our youth.