A merciless duellist Marquis goes around skewering people who don’t like Marie Antoinette. He also has eyes for one of Marie Antoinette’s court ladies Aline (Janet Leigh). Elsewhere another man Andre who is of mysterious birth tries to protect his idiot friend Phillippe who is stirring up anti-royalist feelings.
The Marquis kills Phillippe in a duel. Andre swears vengeance, somehow pretending to be a clown in a travelling troupe of players is part of the plan. As is hanging out with blowsy floozy Lenore and making eyes at Aline.
Andre gets sword fighting lessons and seeks out the man who taught the man who taught his enemy as his obsession grows. This has smart alec dialogue, jealously, vindictiveness and desperation. Still a brillo pad would be more lovable than Andre and there is some tatty sexism involving Aline and Lenore.
Anyway eventually the long awaited duel takes place through a theatre while an audience screeches. There is lots of swinging on ropes, jumping over balustrades, dramatic leaps, posing on chairs, slicing of plants and balancing acts on various furniture items. The duel goes on and on and on and the film ends with several dramatic flourishes. This was okay fluff. And at the end Lenore ends up with Napoleon, was he even born yet?!?
“I ride a little and fall off a lot.”
“I used discretion and the window.”
“I dislike your face.”
This is a somewhat disappointing mash up of ballet, body horror and psychological camp melodrama. Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina on the verge of a nervous breakdown and that’s before she is cast as the Swan Queen in ‘Swan Lake’.
Beth (Winona Ryder) the former star has aged out of the profession and is cast aside, she has a break down too but no-one really cares. The sleazy ballet master (Vincent Cassel) manipulates and sexually harasses Nina into giving the role her all. While newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) is Nina’s ally/rival.
Nina’s monstrous abusive mother (Barbara Hershey) keeps Nina as a 12 year old. Nina’s bedroom is full of stuffed toys and is a pink and white nightmare. Nina dresses like a child, talks like a child and her mother cuts her nails. No wonder Nina has hallucinations and goes full out crazy.
The film takes too long to get to the brilliant climax where Nina metamorphosis’s into the Swan Queen of her darkest dreams and the sleazy, creepy undertones disturb.