In Deauville, the biopic Blonde reveals the dark side of Marilyn Monroe

CRITICAL – The first French screening of the film retracing the tragic life of the star of Some like it hot embodied by the sublime Ana de Armas, will remain a highlight of the 48e American film festival. What is this very feature film (2h45) broadcast on September 28 on Netflix worth?

From our special correspondent in Deauville

If she had lived until today, Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) would have been 96 years old. Exactly the same age as Queen Elizabeth II who disappeared on September 8. The Hollywood star had also met the sovereign of passage in London in 1956 during the filming of the film The Prince and the Dancer by Laurence Olivier.

This anecdote that serves as a common thread in the film My Week with Marilynby Simon Curtis released in 2011 (with Michelle Williams in the title role), does not appear in Blonde hairthe fictionalized biopic of Andrew Dominik (Cogan – Killing Them Softly, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford…) screened for the first time in France during the 48e edition of the Deauville Festival.

What to think of this long-term project led for more than thirteen years by the New Zealand director, produced by Brad Pitt, and which will be broadcast on September 28 on the Netflix platform? Above all, it is a film iconoclast, who strongly shakes up the Marilyn legend to better sublimate it. A surprising biopic that borrows the codes of the horror film.

Torrent movie of more than 2H45, Blonde hair is intended as a palimpsest of the romantic pavement of Joyce Carol Oates. Filmmaker Andrew Dominik relies on the baroque and bubbling adaptation of the fictionalized life of Marilyn Monroe. But through its stylistic choices, its impeccable casting, its deconstructed and dreamlike narration, the film quickly chooses its own path. Blonde hair reveals itself as a furious Niagara, a kind of vehement cinematographic magma which has the ambition to tell the life of Norma Jean Baker/Marilyn Monroe like a kind of nightmarish and tragic long river, describing without weakening the reverse side of the Hollywood decor.

Eruptive, burning film, where reality and fiction continuously collide, Blonde hair advances like a tightrope walker in unstable balance, constantly hesitating between the real and the fictionalized, the dream and the hallucination, color and black and white, imaginary and real facts. The film wants to be out of proportion to the character, highlighting the dark side of the glamorous icon to go beyond the clichés of the pretty scatterbrained gourgandine.

Right away, Blonde hair depicts a frightened little girl, Norma Jean Baker, carried around from an early age by a restless mother who will end up in a psychiatric institution. One day, Gladys Pearl Baker offers her daughter for her birthday the framed portrait of her father, a famous actor who would have abandoned the future mother after learning of her pregnancy. The film never says that the photo in question was actually a shot of Clarke Gable. The guiding thread of the film is set up: little Norma Jean (future Marilyn) will go in search of this unknown and mythologized father.

After this devastated childhood, set on fire by the madness of a schizophrenic mother, the fiction focuses on the rise of a young actress ready to do anything to succeed in Hollywood. Norma Jean invents from scratch a fantasized double, Marilyn Monroe, who uses her body – and her irresistible sex appeal – as a weapon of mass seduction. She dyes her hair platinum blonde, appears with her eyes half-closed, her mouth half-open, while whispering her words sensually, so afraid was she to speak out loud in public.

Among the cohort of Marilyn’s lovers, the film privileges her affair with Charlie Spencer Chaplin Jr and Edward G. Robinson jr. The young actress forms a perverse trio, with these two offspring of celebrities neglected by their respective fathers. From this union should have been born a child, Marilyn will be obliged to give it up for the benefit of the film which will launch her, Men prefer blondeswith Jane Russell, in 1953.

The more her career soars, the more Andrew Dominik reveals that the Hollywood system shamelessly exploits the naivety of this actress overwhelmed by fame and the desire she arouses in men. Marilyn assumes the symbols of an emancipated sexuality because she thinks that should assure her love. In reality, she lets herself be carried away by her demons.

From miscarriages to abortions (Andrew Dominik does not skimp on the appearance of realistic fetuses with which the actress dialogues sadly), cinematographic triumphs (Niagara, Seven Years of Thinking, Some Like It Hot…) in failed marriages (three in all, including one with baseball player Joe Di Maggio and the other with writer Arthur Miller) the star is tossed from depression to depression… Until the descent into hell, which coincides with his rowdy affair with JFK during a sequence at the limit of bearable.

Finally, Blonde hair tells the story of a legendary actress, with a meteoric trajectory. A star who has become a martyr, crushed by a cynical industry that will consume her to the last drop without the slightest qualm. To the joyful and impertinent accents of “Poupou-pidou!”, or the enamored whistles of passers-by when her white skirt flies away under the air vent of a New York subway, respond to the incessant tears of a fragile actress, played masterfully by Ana de Armas. The mise en abyme is fascinating. Sublime, the Cuban-born actress embodies the role of Marilyn Monroe with powerful incandescence, to the point of a rather disturbing form of mimicry. In the race for the Oscars, she has every chance.

Already very long, Dominik’s film nevertheless ignores many episodes and ignores a few famous lovers including Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Yves Montand, Peter Lawford or his psychiatrist Ralph Greenson obsessed with his patient. The film, as powerful as it is disturbing, is sometimes so well documented that it becomes suffocating. But there is still the essential. Even savagely debunking Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe, Blonde hair manages to pay a moving tribute to the wounded woman who hid behind the myth.


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