Thursday, 24 February 2011



Now here's a peculiar thing. An art-horror crossover centring on a young ballet dancer taking the dual lead roles in Swan Lake, that isn't Black Swan? However, Oscar glory was frankly unlikely in this instance, although it's certainly a weirdly interesting little film with pleasing inflections of Argento: though it doesn't take place in a Suspiria-style downpour that's drenched in red and green, it has ballet, it has secret rooms and passageways in ornate old buildings (as in Inferno) and it has Jennifer Connelly (just three years after the total madness of Phenomena/Creepers).

Etoile concerns promising ballerine Clare (Connelly) arrives in Budapest to audition for a prestigious corps de ballet, but loses her nerve at the last moment. But she is quickly spotted by a mysterious figure and under his malefic influence seems to become Natalie, the prima ballerina who danced the same swan roles a hundred years before in a radical and allegedly apocalyptic interpretation of the ballet that was tragically aborted by fire. Her only protector is the nephew of a brash American clock collector played by Charles Durning (stick with me here) but dark forces are apparently conspiring to ensure that the demonic dances will play out this time....

There's frankly very little overt horror in the film, which would probably scrape a low-end 15 at best in the event of it ever going to the BBFC (the film has never been released in the UK). But it's got a creepy atmosphere, plenty of familiar Tchaikovsky on the soundtrack, and a pleasing disregard for logic. Sadly, as it goes on and wanders into the realm of supernatural piffle, it starts to go off the rails, culminating in a (possibly ghostly?) performance of Swan Lake while the hero is set upon by a giant swan monster somewhat in the manner of Rod Hull and Emu. It's certainly not a great success: some of the dialogue is terrible, the hero is a blank, Durning's final scenes are hilarious, and the ending is an anti-climax. But it's an intriguing curiosity and, regardless of Black Swan, quite an enjoyable film. (Even weirder, this isn't the only other movie I've seen recently with Swan Lake in it - frankly I'm getting sick of the damn thing....)


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