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

"Blonde", the anti-biopic that looks into the psyche of Marylin Monroe

We all think we know Marilyn Monroe. His leg emerging from the pool in the never ending movie Something’s Got To Givehis musical numbers legends and her pin-up photos. Her dream figure, her whispered words, her fake mole and her white skirt flying over a subway entrance. Blonde hairmovieAndrew Dominick presented in competition at the Venice Film Festival, is there to set the record straight.

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

Experimental structure

Blonde hair is not a biopic. It is an experimental fiction, which freely reinterprets the main biographical elements of the actress (her mother with psychiatric disorderscareer, relationships, his addiction problems) and turns them into horrific tragedy.

Like the novel from which it is based, the film is less concerned with factual or chronological veracity than with the fractured psyche of Norma Jeane-Marilyn. His fragmented and dreamlike style blurs the boundaries between fiction, reality, memories and hallucinations, and deliberately disorients the viewer.

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

To illustrate the different emotions of the actress, who perceives the important moments of her life as scenes from a film, the production alternates between color and black and white, and constantly switches from one format to another. The sound is sometimes intrusive (the flashes of photographers act as jump scaresthe ovations from the fans ring out like cries of horror), and the nonlinear narration makes dream and reality collide, often within the same plane.

Blonde hair doesn’t just show us Marilyn’s story, it makes us feel viscerally dissociation of the actress.

Destroy to rebuild

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

When he revisits for example the cult scene of Seven years of reflection above the metro entrance, it plunges us first into a male gauze alluring, focused on the white skirt which rises in slow motion, Marilyn’s panties, her smile of ecstasy.

And then, the image jumps, and repeats itself: we witness a frenetic editing of one, two, three, four takes of the same scene. By dint of repetition, the famous moment only seems artificial, mechanical. Once the last take is over, Marilyn steps aside and her smile fades, while a shapeless mass of men roars in admiration.

The violence of the eyes

Fans seeking a reverent account of this immortal icon will no doubt be shocked by Blonde hair, which paints the portrait of a terribly human Marilyn, and does not hesitate to follow her in intimate or degrading moments. The film, banned for children under 17 in the United States, contains several scenes of rape or sexual violence and questions Marilyn’s image as a sex symbol, showing her above all as a woman despised and abused by all the men who surround.

When she makes them read the poems she has written, or talks to them about Chekhov or Dostoyevsky, they either stare at her in disbelief or lose interest. Her romantic relationships have little to do with romance: her husband Joe DiMaggionicknamed “the ex-athlete”, is violent with her; Arthur Miller (“the playwright”) betrays his trust by writing about their intimate life. As for the adventure between Marilyn Monroe and John Fitzgerald Kennedyheavily fantasized and crystallized in the collective imagination by the song “Happy birthday Mr. President”she inherits the most raw and painful passages of the film.

These shocking moments are not there to titillate the viewer. They put us in the shoes of Marilyn and allow 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 screaming her name are distorted, as if ready to gobble her up. And when she sees herself on screen, Marilyn realizes that in the eyes of others, she’s just a simple blonde. A woman that everyone wants to possess, but no one wants to understand.

An intimate anti-biopic

Moving away from the traditional biopic, Blonde hair not tells not so much the story of Marilyn Monroe as that of an alienated femininity, even if it means making narrative sacrifices. While Joyce Carol Oates’ book further detailed the actress’ roles, his love of poetry, her acting classes and the way she built her characters, Andrew Dominik largely avoids telling about Marilyn’s professional life. This is perhaps her most regrettable choice, considering it’s the area in which she continues to be underestimated.

The scenes (too rare) which show all the talent of the actress are among the most beautiful and the most memorable of the film, like that of her first audition, or the one in which she analyzes the play ofArthur Miller better than he himself could have done.

In this intimate, abundant and sometimes violent portrait, the remarkable performance ofAna de Armascompletely inhabited by her role, prevents the character from sinking into caricature.

Blonde hair will most certainly offend those who view Marilyn Monroe as an untouchable icon. But this infinitely sad anti-biopic does not seek to destroy the memory of the actress, just to complicate the one-dimensional image that the public has of her. In the final scene, as the 36-year-old woman dies on her bed, her image doubles. The second snuggled up against her pillow and smiled at us, complicit and seductive. Norma Jeane is dead, but Marilyn’s fantasy remains eternal.

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