“Blonde”, the anti-biopic that looks into the psyche of Marilyn Monroe

We all think we know Marilyn Monroe. His leg comes out of the pool in the endless movie Something’s Gotta Givehis musical numbers legends and his pin-up photos. Her dreamy figure, her whispered words, her fake mole and her white skirt flying over the subway entrance. Blonde haira film by Andrew Dominik presented in competition at the Venice Film Festival, is there to set the record straight.

This fictionalized biography, adapted from the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, strays from the Marilyn legend and harshly scratches the glossy image the actress left behind. She offers instead the portrait of a woman abused and destroyed by her own myth, a tragic figure who belongs to everyone but herself.

Experimental structure

Blonde hair not a biopic. It is an experimental fiction, which freely interprets the main biographical elements of the actress (her mother with psychiatric disorders, her career, her relationships, her addiction problems) and transforms them into terrible tragedy.

Like the novel on which it is based, the film is less concerned with reality or chronological truth than with Norma Jeane-Marilyn’s fractured psyche. his fragmented and dreamlike style blurs the boundaries between fiction, reality, memories and imaginations, and deliberately confuses the viewer.

With few dialogues and a porous temporality, the feature film resembles a series of subliminal images that immerse us in the subjective experience of Norma Jeane and suggest, far from glamour, a life of mistreatment, -abuse and loneliness.

To illustrate the different emotions of the actress, who understands the important moments of her life as scenes from a film, the production alternates between color and black and white, and often move from one format to another. Sound is sometimes distracting (photographers’ flashes act as jump scarethe ovations from the fans scream like screams of terror), and the nonlinear narrative makes dream and reality collide, often within the same plane.

Blonde hair didn’t just show us Marilyn’s story, it made us feel viscerally detached from the actress.

Destroy to rebuild

This cyclothymic narrative serves the purpose of Blonde hair, which sought to destroy the fixed and monolithic image of the star, perpetuated by posters, smiling photos and other statues bearing his likeness. Throughout the film, Andrew Dominik recreates some emblematic images of the actress to better destroy them.

When he visited again, for example, the cult scene of Seven years of meditation above the entrance to the metro, it plunged us a male gauze attractive, focused on the white skirt that rose in slow motion, Marilyn’s panties, her smile of happiness.

And then, the image jumps, and repeats itself: we witness a chaotic editing of one, two, three, four takes of the same scene. Through repetition, the famous moment seems artificial, mechanical. When the last take was done, Marilyn stepped aside and her smile faded, as a shapeless crowd of men roared in admiration.

The violence of the eyes

Fans looking for a respectful account of this immortal icon will no doubt be pleasantly surprised Blonde hair, which paints the picture of an intense person Marilyn, and does not hesitate to follow her in intimate or embarrassing moments. The film, which is prohibited for children under 17 in the United States, contains many scenes of rape or sexual violence and questions the image of Marilyn as a sex symbol, showing her above all as a woman despised and abused by all the men around.

When he had them read poems he had written, or talked to them about Chekhov or Dostoyevsky, they would stare at him in disbelief or lose interest. Her romantic relationships were not romantic: her husband Joe DiMaggio, nicknamed “the ex-athlete”, was violent to her; Arthur Miller (“the playwright”) betrayed her trust by writing about their intimate life. As for the adventure between Marilyn Monroe and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, intensely imagined and crystallized in the collective imagination through song “Happy birthday Mr. president”he inherited the film’s most raw and painful passages.

These shocking moments are not there to entertain the viewer. They put us in Marilyn’s shoes and allowed us to experience, with her, the violence of the gaze directed at her. In a scene where the actress arrives at a premiere, the faces of the men shouting her name are distorted, as if ready to devour her. And when she saw herself on the screen, Marilyn realized that in the eyes of others, she was a simple blonde. A woman that everyone wants to have, but no one wants to understand.

An intimate anti-biopic

Moving away from the traditional biopic, Blonde hair not tells less of Marilyn Monroe’s story than of an isolated womanhood, even if it means making narrative sacrifices. While Joyce Carol Oates’ book goes into more detail about the roles of the actress, her love of poetry, her acting classes and how she creates her characters, Andrew Dominik largely avoids talking about Marilyn’s professional life. . This is perhaps his most regrettable choice, as it is the area where he continues to be underestimated.

The scenes (very rare) that show all the talent of the actress are among the most beautiful and memorable in the film, such as her first audition, or the one where she examines Arthur Miller’s play better than her I didn’t do anything.

In this intimate, abundant and sometimes violent picture, the outstanding performance of Ana de Armas, who fully inhabits her role, prevents the tendency to sink into caricature.

Blonde hair sure to offend those who see Marilyn Monroe as an untouchable icon. But this infinitely sad anti-biopic does not seek to destroy the memory of the actress, to complicate the one-dimensional image that the public has of her. In the final scene, as the 36-year-old woman dies in her bed, her image doubles. The second hugged his pillow and smiled at us, complicit and charming. Norma Jeane is dead, but Marilyn’s fantasy lives on.

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