The long-gestating Marilyn Monroe biopic “Blonde,” which is expected to be one of the most contentious movies of the year, finally premieres on Netflix on Wednesday.
While Ana de Armas’ visceral lead performance has received virtually unanimous acclaim, critics are divided over whether the uncompromising, nearly three-hour film is a work of art or another brutal act of exploitation against the iconic figure of the 20th century.
With “Blonde,” ID magazine describes “guttural, instinctive, tormented filmmaking that bends space, time, and every cinematic tool at its disposal to achieve emotional truth.”
The continual suffering that Monroe endures on television could be viewed by spectators as “a special form of directorial sadism,” or they could adopt the viewpoint of Richard Brody of the New Yorker, who termed it “ridiculously vulgar.”
In his version of the best-selling semi-fictional book of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, Australian director Andrew Dominik pulls no punches.
Monroe’s life is portrayed as being filled with unrelenting cruelty and suffering, from the tragedy of a mentally unbalanced and abusive mother to her rape at the hands of a studio boss to a particularly sleazy encounter with President John F. Kennedy.
Dominik fought Netflix for a long time over the film’s lengthy running time and explicit sequences, but he now credits the #MeToo movement against sexual assault with igniting interest in the subject. Dominik spent 11 years attempting to get the movie done.
In order to prepare for the role, Armas told reporters at the Venice Film Festival, where the movie had its world debut this month, that she had to go to “uncomfortable, dark, and vulnerable” locations.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about her, dreaming about her, or talking about her. It was lovely having her with me “said she.
Dominik claimed that the production “took on elements of a seance” and that the crew had shot at the actual places where Monroe was born and died.
This is a breakthrough role for Armas, who spent months working with a vocal coach to get rid of her Cuban accent and produce a voice that could convey both Monroe’s persona and her own distinctive intonations.
Adrien Brody, who plays Marilyn Monroe’s husband Arthur Miller, remarked in Venice, “On the first day of filming, I went home with this sensation of astonishment that I had the honor of actually working with Marilyn Monroe.
Dominik’s movies have frequently divided audiences.
His earlier biopic, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” starring Brad Pitt, who is a producer on “Blonde,” was hailed by many as a poetic masterpiece, but it was also derided by many for being tedious and pretentious and failed miserably at the box office.
But it’s unlikely that Dominik will care.
He told Screen Daily that “Blonde” is “a tough movie.” “It is entirely the audience’s fault if they don’t like it. It isn’t a campaign for public office.”
NPR was one of many media outlets to call the movie “an exercise in exploitation, not empathy.”
The initial shock, according to Vogue, may lessen considerably over time.
“Blonde,” a Hollywood biography shot in true anarchy mode, will fare well in history; it one day might even be hailed as a classic.
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