Movie Reviews: Blonde | Gourmet Feed

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Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde PIC: Netflix © 2022

After kicking off his career with the ridiculously funny Chopper and following it belatedly with Brad Pitt’s slick Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik is no stranger to films rooted in reality that explore the dark. , violent side of fame. With Blond, however, he takes this interest to an indulgent extreme. Reimagining the life of Marilyn Monroe as a somewhat abstract Freudian nightmare full of sex, suffering, and hallucinatory imagery, the film doesn’t come across as a biopic in the traditional sense. Like Joyce Carol Oates’ acclaimed novel from which Dominik adapted his screenplay, it uses imagery, mythology, and some of the biographical and historical details of Monroe’s life and times as a starting point for a sensationalist, sometimes beautiful , sometimes tacky, sometimes goofy portrait of the birth of modern stardom.

Starring Ana de Armas (No Time to Die) as Marilyn, the film is certainly an assault on the senses. Whether it’s switching between different aspect ratios, jumping between black and white and vivid technicolor, or bringing famous photo shoots to life or creating deepfake clips of de Armas in the most beloved of Monroe, the film’s chaotic structure feels on the surface like a radical way to portray her as someone who is overwhelmed and out of touch with her studio-constructed image. But after nearly three hours of that, it never quite gets beyond the Candle in the Wind cliches that Elton John sang in his original recording of his Marilyn-inspired song of the same name.

This tearful ballad is of course now more associated with Princess Diana, another tragic blonde victim of the celebrity age whose life and death have become national obsessions. As such, it’s perhaps no surprise that, like last year’s brilliant Spencer, Blonde comes across as something of a horror-movie riff, a garish amalgamation of the schizophrenic Hollywood fairy tale of David Lynch Mulholland Drive and the patriarchal gaslight terror of Roman Polanski’s Satanic-themed Rosemary’s Baby. . In Blonde, however, the evil men of Marilyn’s world conspire to stop her having a child, with the aftermath of a forced abortion – made creepy with night vision cameras – becoming one of the most unsettling scenes. and the most effective of the film.

Unfortunately, the movie can’t help but reduce Monroe’s life to her reproductive heartaches. Her various abortions and miscarriages are used to highlight the tragedy of a woman whose mentally unstable mother we see trying to drown her as a child and whose obsession with the mysterious father she never knew becomes the balm that she believes will heal her cracked psyche. In a serious lack of taste, or perhaps just paying a bizarre homage to the child star in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dominik not only has Marilyn repeatedly conversing with an advanced-stage fetus each time she gets pregnant, he also feels the need to deploy more special effects to give us trippy shots of those dead fetuses emerging from Marilyn’s body, as if her cervix is ​​the stargate at the end of the classic aforementioned Kubrick science fiction.

But there are sleazy taste flaws everywhere (check the scene with JFK) and more than once Dominik’s camera lands on a graphic image of Marilyn’s pristine white underwear forcibly removed by a studio executive so that he – Dominik – might later draw a crude connection between his violent film debut and the iconic image of his puffy white dress rising over his underwear in The Seven Year Itch. While there is certainly a valid connection to be drawn between behind-the-scenes abuse and the way misogyny is codified on screen, ironizing about the exploitation of women is a tricky thing to do in a film that often objectifies its own rising star. For her part, de Armas gives her all in a performance that is both fearless and fragile. But she’s also limited by the film’s disinterest in portraying Marilyn as anything other than a victim. Even when he sometimes manages to subtly denounce the industry’s double standards by showing how Monroe’s devotion to the Method’s still-nascent acting style was dismissed as a sign of mental illness, Blonde doesn’t provide enough counterpoint. to show what a performer she really was. Consequently, de Armas is stuck playing Marilyn as a mentally distressed empty vessel, a construct through which an abused little girl called Norma Jeane Baker was dragged into the celebrity maelstrom and left to fend for herself.

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe & Adrien Brody as the playwright in Blonde PIC: Netflix © 2022

Even by the twisted standards of Peter Strickland’s past work, his latest film Gourmet Feed is a little outraged. A bizarro tale of music, food and creative tension, it stars Strickland regular Fatma Mohamed as Elle di Elle, the uncompromising leader of a group of “sonic caterers” – entertainers from performance that make avant-garde music from food. When the group – which can’t decide on a name – takes up residency at an artists’ retreat, its owner and patron Jan Stevens (dryly played by Gwendoline Christie) becomes a source of anxiety as it tries to exert its influence. (Makis Papadimitriou), a “hackwriter” hired by Jan to document the process but whose severe flatulence gradually drags him into the heart of the conflict. What emerges is a knowingly pretentious and often funny exploration of the creative process of a filmmaker who sees the world like no one else.

Blonde is now in select release and streaming on Netflix from September 28; Flux Gourmet is in theaters and on-demand digital from Curzon Home Cinema starting September 30.

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