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  • "Oh The Horror!" with Hesta Prynn - Installment 1 "Black Swan"

    Thu, 09 Dec 2010 14:52:39

    "Oh The Horror!" with Hesta Prynn - Installment 1 "Black Swan" - Hesta Prynn launches her brand new ARTISTdirect.com column, "Oh The Horror!", with a detailed look at "Black Swan"...

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    Oh The Horror! is the place for me, Hesta Prynn, the professional musician, to write not about music, but about the other dope things I’m into—video games, art, life on the road—and particularly my love for the horror genre. I can write 200 words on Krautrock for an indie music mag, but it won’t get me into ComicCon and I suspect this column might. Guys write music to meet girls. Girls write columns, it would seem, to meet dorks.

    Last night I saw Black Swan. I loved it and immediately wanted to write about it for my first column. Two of my favorite movies of all time are Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, and I even loved The Tenant. I keep it erudite; I saw the parallels and patted myself on the back the whole way home thinking about how literary and academic my review would be. I slept easy, woke up on the day of my deadline and dragged my laptop into bed. I played two games of Double Dragon on Nintendo 1 (this was going to be cake) before offhandedly Google-ing "Black Swan, Repulsion" just to see if any other geniuses happened to have made the same connection. Everyone had. Everyone.

    Okay so…

    Let’s put unraveling females, sexual repression and torn fingernails aside for a moment. We know what links these three films plot-wise and tonally, but what is it that makes me relate to and love the themes of these movies? I haven’t lost my mind yet, but why can I relate to the stories of these three women so well? Is it because so much of the experience of being a young woman in this world is about things happening to you, people wanting to do things to you and the inability to control it which can feel truly terrifying? In Black Swan, Nina [Natalie Portman] deals with this by controlling everything around her—the bulimia, cutting, obsessive discipline. In Repulsion, Catherine Denueve’s character attempts to at least regulate the environment by not leaving the house. In Rosemary's Baby, Rosemary Woodhouse tries (poorly and too late) to be in charge of her own pregnant body. It doesn’t work for any of these three characters. Ultimately the terror from the outside world leaks in. Does being a pretty girl ultimately means being alienated, being vulnerable, being unsafe?

    I think that in part it does and I think that Darren Aronofsky did an amazing job of allowing us as the viewers to live through Nina's eyes. I think the film, like Repulsion, showed us a very real and very scary part of what it means to be a young female living in a major city. Something else that I particularly loved about Black Swan that you didn't see in Polanski’s films was the accurate illustration of life as a professional artist. Nina's sacrifices her sanity in her absolute devotion to her art. Living as an artist—whether a dancer, musician, filmmaker, sculptor, writer, whatever—means living with disappointment, anxiety, instability and self-doubt. Ultimately you don’t choose this life, it chooses you and you cope with the lack of control the best way you can.

    As the only girl on the road with a group of boys, I can relate to this. Being on tour is like being in a parallel universe similar to being focused on the production of a ballet or an apartment whose interior you’re trying to control. It is lonely and you can wrap yourself up in circles inside your head wondering if you’re doing good work and if you're still a girl after living on top of all of these boys for so many days on end. Sometimes you find yourself having surreal conversations with people you just met (or say, at Scores with members of Cypress Hill) and it’s hard to know which thoughts are real and which are part of the show? Sometimes when you've given yourself an alias and a persona onstage it’s hard to know where that ends and you begin.

    Most nights after the show people go home to download my music illegally and the boys stay at the bar and drink. I generally go back to the hotel and work my way through Dario Argento and the Ju-On films, which brings me here. My appetite for gore is apparently insatiable but when your real life means living in a van with four 20-something dudes, "horror" becomes a relative term. Yes, it’s lonely when you’re the only girl on the road, when you’re the only musician in your family, when you’re the only banker in a family of artists, when you’re a perfection-seeking dancer, a foreign babe in a strange city, or a pregnant women in the 60s. It’s alienating to be the "only" anything in your world. I think just about everyone can see their own dark side breathing down on them or reading over their shoulder some days.

    I’m more interested in slashers than psychological thrillers these days, but I loved this modern movie made with a timeless feel. I love that in the days of ubiquitous online porn here is a sexually inhibited female character. I love the relationship she had with her mother (This week on No Boundaries, Tucking in Your 28-Year Old Daughter!) I loved the music and costumes and choreography and I LOVED that every gross disgusting boy I just got off of tour with was dying to see a movie about Swan Lake. (Come for the lesbian sex scene! Stay for the ballet!) My favorite movies are all like this: beautiful, creepy and off. Too few hours of sleep on any given night and these films don’t look too different from my own life.

    —Hesta Prynn

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    Tags: Hesta Prynn, Cypress Hill, Natalie Portman, Dario Argento, Darren Aronofsky, Repulsion

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