Breathless and Black Swan

Breathless

Dean Koontz

Bantam Books (2010)

Mass Market Paperback 413 pgs.

3 stars

     Up in the Rockies, Grady Adams and his dog Merlin have no idea what they have just encountered on their daily walk. It is effecting all the animals in the area, however and he and the local veterinarian are about to witness history in the making.

     A neighbor is about to visit his own history, in the form of a twin brother. But actions have consequences and the best laid plans often must be put aside for the unexpected. In Seattle, a lawyer makes arrangements to have his family killed, and a vagrant who decides to give life another chance becomes a hero.

     Koontz has always been a hit or miss author for me. I absolutely loved The Face last year but was a little confused by this one. As usual, he starts out running and you never know what hit you. But it kind of fizzled and one thread that was really hot just disappeared and nothing came of it. I still like and will read Koontz from time to time. His books are always fun and fast-moving. Sometimes the ending just doesn’t fit the pace. And that’s ok.

     I also saw Black Swan this week. I don’t usually review movies but this one was unusual and it swept me away into a very mesmorizing and weird world.  It starred Natalie Portman (Nina) who just won the Golden Globe for this role and Mila Kunis (Lily) as the ballet dancers with strong supporting roles by Vincent Cassel as Swan Lake’s director and Barbara Hershey as Nina’s mother.

     Nina lives with her mother who retired from the ballet to raise her. At first the relationship seems happy, if a little suffocating, but they are both excited at Nina’s opportunity of getting the lead in Swan Lake.  Beth (Winona Ryder), the older prima ballerina whom Nina considered “perfect” was being replaced as Swan Queen and many auditioned for the coveted dual role of  the White and Black Swan. Despite reservations on the part of director Thomas Leroy, Nina got the lead. Leroy loved her innocent and graceful interpretation of the White Swan, but her sensual Black Swan was lacking in passion.

     As Leroy both encouraged and criticized her, a new face appeared in the company. Lily danced a wonderful Black Swan and Leroy was impressed. When Lily tried to befriend her, Nina became convinced that she was trying to take her place. The stress of the dual role took its toll on her already fragile mind which disintegrated in a most bewildering and exquisite intensity.

     My first impressions was that this movie sold as a psycho-sexual freakout actually didn’t have that much sex.  Ok some, but it was so cleverly crafted that there was no actual nudity. The psycho part was more of a functional mental illness that blew a fuse over the stress and the dual nature of the swan role. Nina and her mother both seemed to suffer from something. There were signs of strange in the apartment from the beginning like the dozens of painted faces hanging in the mother’s studio. However, like many people suffering from mental illness, they manage to survive and even thrive despite their problems. Nina was the most dedicated dancer in her ballet company.

     As in real life, stress can really upset the mental apple cart. Leroy felt Nina had what it took to be brilliant while Nina was obsessed with being perfect.  She begins to steal the former prima ballerina’s things and experience both visual and auditory hallucinations.  As we are drawn into her increasingly bizarre world, I began to wonder what was real and what was illusion. I’m still wondering about a couple of things.

     I got swept up in watching Black Swan. The sometimes scary imagery was enthralling while the ballet dancing with those fabulous feathered costumes was breathtaking. I just love Swan Lake. It juxtaposed that beauty with Nina’s scratching self-mutilations and illusions of her skin peeling, blood, and broken bones. I am sympathetic for people who actually have to deal with mental illness challenges while trying to maintain a normal life. I don’t think it is nearly as exciting, or psycho-sexual, as Portman had it in the movie.

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8 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting the book and movie reviews. I always enjoy them. I am going to add Black Swan to my Netflix queue.

  2. I just read another review of Breathless and the blogger said pretty much the same thing. She was really disappointed in the ending. I’ve only read a couple of Koontz books, both of which I enjoyed. I don’t imagine I’ll read all of the books he’s written, but several do interest me and I look forward to eventually getting to them.

    I’ve been really curious about Black Swan. It sounds like quite a movie! Like Danielle, I’ll have to add it to my Netflix queue.

  3. Hi Wendy – I don’t know what it is about Koontz. His books are terrific or just like this. Of the two from this week, Black Swan really stood out. I was going to skip it but my husband’s cousins convinced us to see it. I’m so glad! I hope you enjoy it too!

  4. I’m glad you reviewed both of these. Like you, Koontz is hit or miss with me.

    I don’t watch television (haven’t in ten years or more) but this movie came on my radar from an article I read and I was intrigued by it and the costumes and sets. I liked seeing your point of view. I’ve not been to the movies since, well, I guess the second Matrix, or maybe the last LOTR whichever was last, but had considered this one.

  5. Well you haven’t missed much! From time to time something comes out that I have to see on the big screen. Last year it was Inception and that was really something. I enjoy storytelling in all its forms, especially when it hits that human element or a deeper theme.
    With all its channels, there is really not much on TV.
    Usually I stick with Food Network or Discovery. Thanks for visiting, Gypsy, and leaving your comments. Please come back to visit any time!

  6. Thanks for the movie review. It’s one I’ve wanted to see and I’m happy to hear that it was that good.

  7. Hi Melissa! I liked it very much, it was different and yes, had its weird moments but that is the story. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for visiting and come back anytime!

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