The direction is intriguing, Aronofsky shows us close-ups of hands and objects and are drawn into this world he creates for us. The use of the shaky hand-held camera technique works beautifully during dance scenes, but unfortunately is carried through and overused during conventional dialogue scenes, which becomes annoying.
Natalie Portman is excellent. Most notable isn't that she delivers such a strong performance (which she does), but that the strength of her performance is consistent from beginning to end. While no performance from any one of the supporting cast members stand out quite so much, none let it down either, and a small role played by Winona Ryder is a treat.
It wont spoil the movie for me to write that the film explores a young woman's descent into madness. What I found excellent of this was the authenticity with which genuine psychosis is portrayed: the inability of the psychotic to trust her own eyes, an inability to believe what she sees is real, and remarkably we see the story, beginning to end, from her perspective. The film is initially set up similar to Bette Davis' 'All About Eve', but quickly becomes much more like David Cronenberg's 'The Fly' (one scene in particular pays direct homage thereto). The transition is chilling in the way a good horror film ought to be.
The characters serve their purpose well, but I do feel the mother was not set up correctly (ie, the cake scene), and her motivation is a little all over the place even by the end. Black Swan is an excellent piece of cinema, and yes, for those of you who couldn't care less about 'the bear in the little car', you will enjoy this chilling film.