Black Swan and Rattlesnake

Held captive in the doldrums Friday evening (by Justice Scalia and the Texas Legislature), I told David I needed to see Black Swan to make me feel better.

I knew even as I said it that my wish was ultra-self-contradictory, sort of oxymoronic with the emphasis on moron.

Anyone who’s seen the publicity knows Black Swan wasn’t made for the Hallmark channel. Two friends had warned me about it. One said that two days after viewing, she still had that feeling some movies send you away with. The other said the movie is graphic. I said graphic what? and she said graphic everything.

By Saturday morning, having regained my normally sunny outlook, I worried that the intensity of an anti-Mary Poppins might bring on Black Mood.

But I chanced it.

So as not to spoil anything, I’ll skip to the review: Black Swan is very very very very very good.

Aside from the fact that I remember when Barbara Hershey was a teenager, I felt better coming out of the theater than I had going in.

But I have not shaken the spell. There’s so much to remember, to ponder.

I was pondering when I reached into the kitchen cabinet for a can of tuna and found a rattlesnake.

The hiss was unmistakable. I jumped backward against the electric range, heart pounding, setting the oven racks a- shuddering.

When strike didn’t follow hiss, I stepped closer but saw nothing resembling Crotalus atrox.

What I did see, right in front, was a can of Pam cooking spray, the one I knocked off the shelf a couple of days ago. The cap shattered when it hit the floor, and the can is now hatless.

Obviously, when I reached over the Pam to get to the tuna–heaven forfend I should simply clear a path–my arm pressed down on the exposed nozzle. The spray made a hissing noise, as sprays do.

If I’d spent a peaceful day at home, I’d have thought, That was the Pam.

But I’d just seen Black Swan, so I thought, SNAKE!

Note: There are no snakes in that movie.

But a lot of doors open.

Perhaps that’s the secret to suspense well done. Once under its spell, the viewer, or the reader, glides along on a mixture of experience and anticipation. A closed door becomes menacing. A suggestion of horror is harrowing. The most successful effects stay with us. Fifty years later, a shower curtain still gives bathers pause.

It does me, anyway.

I’m not saying that Black Swan resembles Psycho in any way. They’re entirely different.

I’m sorry Edgar Allan Poe isn’t around today. The man who limited his poems to approximately a hundred lines and his fiction to pieces that could be read in one sitting might be interested in the unity of effect that can be achieved on film.

Black Swan is stunning. It drew me into the illusion and still won’t let me go.