Black Swan | 2010
This nightmarish cousin of Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes comes out firing on all cylinders as an unashamed psychological horror film. Dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) gets the role of a lifetime as the lead in Swan Lake but although her White Swan character is technically perfect, she’s goaded, harassed and bullied by manipulative director Leroy (Vincent Cassel) to find convincing darkness for the character’s evil twin.
The story is set and filmed in New York, where Leroy’s company is based at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, on Columbus Avenue between West 63rd and West 64th Streets on the West Side. It’s Manhattan’s premiere performing arts complex, hence Nina’s obsessive drive for perfection.
It’s in the Lincoln Center Plaza that Leroy sits down with Nina after she gets some shocking news and, yes, that’s the famous fountain which explodes into life in Mel Brooks’ The Producers.
When Nina returns to the apartment she shares with her domineering mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), she seems to travel only five stops north, exiting the subway at 103rd Street Station.
But you won’t find her apartment on the Upper West Side.
It’s Turner Towers, 135 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights, opposite Brooklyn Museum, facing the north side of Prospect Park, Brooklyn.
The grand art deco block is one of New York’s few true ‘tenant sponsored co-ops’. In the 1960s, canny tenants bought out their landlord and sold the apartments to themselves at low cost.
The posh charity bash at which Nina is introduced as a replacement for the unwillingly retiring star Beth (Winona Ryder), is the interior of the National Museum of the American Indian, 1 Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan.
It’s the Museum’s exterior, the old Customs House, which is more frequently seen on screen in many productions including Batman Forever (as Gotham Casino), Ghostbusters 2 (the museum) and Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (as the luxury hotel). That winged statue which so captures Nina’s attention is real and not a film prop.
Realising she needs to loosen up a little, Nina accompanies Lily (Mila Kunis) to Forum, 127 4th Avenue, between East 12th and 13th Streets, close to Union Square, which was then an upscale lounge with white stone walls and textured glass screens.
Gone too has Santos Party House, 96 Lafayette Street between Walker and White Streets, Lower Manhattan, the banging nightclub they move to after Nina spontaneously knocks back Lily’s cocktail of mood-enhancing substances.
The final climactic and cathartic performance of Swan Lake was filmed, not in the Lincoln Center, but in the Concert Hall of the Performing Arts Center of Purchase College, at Purchase, several miles of New York City in Westchester County.