We don’t often shy away from a blonde, but on this ‘Blonde’ we finally broke down

The moment Ana de Armas first appears as Marilyn Monroe in ‘Blonde’, aroundthe 17th minute, we froze in our seat: because Ana is Marilyn! She really doeslook like her!

Erik StockmanWednesday, September 28, 202212:00

Admittedly not like two drops of water: in her voice you can hear a hint of aCuban accent – the Armas was born in Santa Cruz del Norte – and hopefullyno one will blame us when we notice, walking on eggshells as carefully aspossible, that the slender Ana lacks a certain, er, fullness in the physicalsense. And yet there is something of the magic of the real Marilyn aroundher. Her childlike innocence, her sparkling wit, her unrelenting charm, herendearing sheepishness (like when Marilyn has no idea how to eat a boiledegg), the garland of tragedy that hangs around her: all the characteristics wehave learned over the years. , rightly or wrongly, we have come to associatewith Marilyn, we find very beautiful back in the rendition of the Armas. Herewith that Oscar nomination!

It’s a shame that the film is not aware of the performance of the leadactress. It’s not often that we shy away from a blonde – gentlemen preferblondes , not true! – but on this ‘Blonde’ we were finally blown away. Thefirst point of discussion is the approach: director and screenwriter AndrewDominik Without much sense of nuance, Marilyn portrays Marilyn in ‘Blonde’as an innocent little bird released into the hell of patriarchal Hollywood.Already in one of the first scenes we see how Marilyn is raped during anaudition without a boo or yuck by a studio boss who goes by the name ‘Mr Z’:hmmmm, could it be Daryll F. Zanuck the big boss of Twentieth CenturyPictures?

In the most shocking scene, the president, stretched out on a hotel bed, grabsKennedy Marilyn by the curls and he forces her into a blowjob in a longheld sickening shot. It could well be that Marilyn actually had to undergothose humiliations, but a disclaimer is appropriate here: the scenes inquestion do not arise from facts, but from fiction, rumors and fictions.’Blonde’ is based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates , who used Marilyn’slife as the basis for an (allegedly splendid) work of fiction. Anyway, byportraying Marilyn as a butterfly mortified, abused, exploited, and ultimatelydestroyed by maledom, Dominik joins an expanding movement that hasposthumously proclaimed Marilyn a martyr of feminism.

“Look at what happened to Marilyn!” this is how you could summarize themessage of that movement (and of ‘Blonde’). “Look at the brutality she had toendure, and you’ll see why feminism was desperately needed!” Or like thewriter Nancy Friday it said, “Look closely at Marilyn’s life, girls.Because this is what happens to you when you let yourself be treated as a sexobject!’ Correctamundo, correct and completely true, but the devil’s advocatein us would like to throw a question into the group: Doesn’t that approachignore the fact that Marilyn was much more than just a martyr?

Don’t forget: for every soul who proclaims Marilyn a martyr of feminism, thereis a biographer who portrays her as an ambitious, intelligent woman who knewperfectly that her value lay in her curves and her curves. And wasn’t she alsoa great performer who had the unique gift of enchanting the whole world? Put100 Flemish and international celebs on stage and have them perform ‘I WannaBe Loved By You’, and we’ll give you a note that none of them will be able tomatch Marilyn’s version – even Harry Styles not, if he put a blond wig onhis crown. But for those qualities – her engulfing naturalness on the bigwhite screen, her magnetic appearance, yes even her acting talent that bubblesunder the skin – ‘Blonde’ remains completely blind.

In ‘Blonde’ we see how the gifted Marilyn is reduced to a sex object by mostmen, but the question is: does not Dominik make the same mistake by portrayingher in most scenes as a ruthless romper? Anyway: enough material to put up asturdy tree in the cafe afterwards. But you know, overall, it’s not evenDominik’s slightly narrow-minded angle that troubled us. No, it is mainly hisfilm style that we have been rejected. Instead of opting for a classicbiographical account, Dominik tries to draw us into a slightly surreal streamof images with his dreamy photography and his trance-inducing music score.

In that respect ‘Blonde’ can actually be compared well with ‘Spencer’, theidiosyncratic biopic that pablo Larrain last year made over LadyDi. Dominik also used that poetic style in 2007’s ‘The Assassination ofJesse James By the Coward Robert Ford’, with wonderful results, but this timehe misses the point in most scenes. During an abortion, the cinematographergives us a point of view shot from Marilyn’s vagina, and during the blowjobshe gives to JFK, images of surface-to-air missiles actually pass through – asif we are in a ‘The Naked Gun’-esque farce – like phalluses pointing upwards.Okay, there’s nothing wrong with a little comic relief, but the momentMarilyn’s unborn fetus starts talking out loud, we thought: okay, Andrew, nowit’s enough with your imagery-of-licking vest.

Finally, one more thought. We wouldn’t want to feed them, all those writers,essayists, journalists and filmmakers who have been researching, commenting,analyzing, claiming, interpreting and reinterpreting Marilyn’s life since herdeath on August 4, 1962. But we may never know who she really was. We’d loveto offer her a gin fizz and have a chat with her, but hey, she’s been underthe sod for 60 years. Hopefully she rests in peace.