Darren Aronofsky’s psychosexual ballet thriller “Black Swan” opened the 67th Venice Film Festival on Wednesday, with stars Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel prancing down the red carpet with jury chief Quentin Tarantino.
Aronofsky returned to the Lido with his warmly received “Swan” two years after scooping the Golden Lion for “The Wrestler.”
He sees the pic pair as complementary despite the very different disciplines depicted.
“The more I looked into ballet, I actually started to see all these similarities to the world of wrestling,” Aronofsky said on Wednesday at a packed press conference. “They both have these performers that use their bodies in extremely intense physical ways.”
The dark film, set in a cutthroat New York City ballet milieu, depicts ruthless ambition, drug taking, self-mutilation and lesbian sex.
“I’m terrified of a ballet backlash,” joked Aronofsky. “Those dancers are real dangerous.”
Like “The Wrestler,” “Black Swan” was made under the Fox Searchlight banner whose top echelons were in attendance. As was Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who received the evening’s first protracted applause.
But the longest standing ovation came as the closing credits were rolling on the gala screening of “Swan,” making for one of the strongest Venice openers in recent memory.
Pic, which screened in competition, segues to Toronto and is scheduled to go out Stateside Dec. 1.
At the opening ceremony a typically high-energy Tarantino screamed out, “Amore cinema!” after the jury was introduced.
Earlier in the day he praised this year’s Venice selection as “one of the wildest, most cool, eclectic lineups. It’s kind of all over the map, and that’s really exciting.”
Asked whether being friends with several directors with films in the competish could affect his judgment, Tarantino assured, “If someone I love makes a movie I don’t care for, I ain’t going to fight for it.”
“Black Swan” preemed as part of a high-profile Venice opening-night triple-header along with Andrew Lau’s Bruce Lee tribute “Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen” and Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete” — both playing out of competition.
“Machete,” a B-movie pastiche starring Jessica Alba and Danny Trejo, screened in the Sala Grande at midnight.
Pic is an extension of the faux trailer on “Grindhouse,” and Rodriguez said that he aimed to deliver the goods that trailer promised.
Trejo, who plays a Mexican former Federale, thanked the helmer profusely for giving him the lead.
“I’ve been blessed: Robert Rodriguez made me go from ex-con to icon,” he said.