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Blonde: Will a shocking new film break the myth of Marilyn Monroe? | Movies

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Nearly 60 years after her death, attempts by the entertainment industry to resurrect Marilyn Monroe continue apace. Earlier this week, Andy Warhol’s 1964 screen-printed portrait of the actor sold at auction for $195 million, the highest sum ever paid for a 20th-century work of art.

The week before, Kim Kardashian showed up at the Met Gala in New York in the $4.8 million crystal-covered nude silk dress Monroe wore to serenade John F Kennedy on his 45th birthday.

It was considered a less than successful tribute. As Warhol’s immortalization of the actor in blue and pink pop art helped seal his image for the next half-century, a reality TV star donning a dead woman’s dress in near-emulation did less well. Details of the extreme diet Kardashian set out to put on in the dress were uncomfortable with Monroe’s mystique. The revelation that she needed a white stole because she couldn’t manage the zipper anymore undid the effect.

Appropriate tribute? …Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala. Photography: John Nacion/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

On Thursday, the International Council of Museums weighed in, noting sternly that “historic clothing should not be worn by anyone, public or private figures”. While the dress was owned by a private collector – Ripley’s Believe it or Not! – its heritage, they continued, “must be understood as belonging to humanity” and the artifact “preserved for future generations”.

That an outfit worn by an actor to sing Happy Birthday should receive magna carta respect speaks to the earnestness, as well as the feverishness, with which Monroe is still held in the cultural imagination.

It’s not just Hollywood that claims her as a person of key historical significance. Ten years ago, a black-and-white snapshot of Monroe was chosen as the poster for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, which described her as “an eternal icon whose grace, mystery and power of seduction remain resolutely contemporary… the Festival is a temple of glamor and Marilyn is the perfect embodiment of it.

This year Cannes starts on Tuesday, and many people had anticipated that Monroe would once again be the de facto star. Festival director Thierry Frémaux had “adored” Blonde, a new biopic of the star, and wanted him to play on the Croisette. Its manager, Andrew Dominik, was delighted to accept.

Still, Netflix, the company behind the film, wasn’t so enamored. Long-standing feuds between the festival and the streaming giant have led the Frémaux team to now impose strict conditions on films playing in competition: they must open in French theaters and not be seen online for another 18 month.

Netflix backed down and offered an eight-month cinema-only compromise, which Frémaux reportedly rejected. An out-of-competition spot wasn’t tempting enough for Netflix, whose awards ambitions have yet to be fully satisfied by the successes of films such as Roma, Marriage Story and The Power of the Dog.

It now seems likely that Blonde will premiere at the Venice film festival at the end of August – where comparable titles such as Spencer and Jackie, Pablo Larraín’s biographical film about Princess Diana, his portrayal of JFK’s widow, have been screened. screened for the first time.

Warhol's Marilyn sold for $195 million this week.
Warhol’s Marilyn sold for $195 million this week. Photograph: John Angelillo/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

Still, advanced word about the film suggests it could be cut from rather less rarefied fabric. While Larraín’s films were experimental in style and unwavering in their depiction of women’s inner struggles, they remained essentially reverential. Dominik’s film would be brutal – and revolutionary.

“There’s something to offend everyone,” the director said this week in response to the US rating board’s decision to award him an NC-17 certification, which severely limits his commercial prospects.

Dominik, whose previous work includes Australian crime film Chopper and a Jesse James Western starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, remained upbeat in his defense of his film. “It’s a demanding film,” he said. “If the audience doesn’t like it, that’s the fucking audience problem. This is not an application for public office.

“I want to go see the NC-17 version of the Marilyn Monroe story.”

Although rumors of a scene featuring bloody menstrual cunnilingus have yet to be confirmed, a rape is included. Joyce Carol Oates, on whom the 2000 book is based, praised a rough cut of the film, calling it “surprising, brilliant, very disturbing and perhaps most surprisingly a totally ‘feminist’ interpretation. …I’m not sure a male director has ever directed anything. [like] this.”

The film, which follows Monroe from her troubled childhood until her death from a barbiturate overdose at the age of 36, has been a passion project for Dominik since the publication of Oates’ book 22 years ago. Knives Out actress Ana de Armas plays the title role – succeeding Jessica Chastain, who took over from Naomi Watts.

Blonde ambition… Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe.
Blonde ambition… Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe. Picture: Netflix

Dominik credited the #MeToo movement with allowing him to make a film that was sufficiently “critical of America’s sacred cows”. Before that, he says, “no one cared about that kind of bullshit – what it’s like to be an unloved girl, or what it’s like to go through the Hollywood meat grinder. “.

Other early viewers of the film were also impressed. Jamie Lee Curtis, who co-starred with de Armas in Knives Out and whose father, Tony Curtis, appears as a character in the film, said: “I fell to the ground. I could not believe it. Ana was completely gone. She was Marilyn.

The version of Monroe that Blonde confronts audiences with is likely to be both difficult and familiar. It remains to be seen how much appetite there is for a radically debunked view of this most totemic sex symbol.

This article was last modified on May 13, 2022. Oates Blonde’s book was published in 2000, not 2010 as an earlier version stated.