Blonde Ambition

The directorial prowess of Andrew Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and “Chopper” are only two of his previous films.) and the powerful performance from Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, which ranks among the best every committed to film, propels “Blonde” to levels of excellence.

There’s a great divide in the storytelling that will appeal more to mavens of cinema over regular fans of movies. Dominik likes to travel on the road to the cinema of cruelty.

That being said, “Blonde” is so iconoclastic that it begs the audience to bring their own knowledge of the subject of Monroe to the fore in order to correctly undermine the narrative.

de Armas and Norman Jeane Mortenson are the same height, 5-foot six-inches.

While there are certain elements that tell the truth in “Blonde” it’s obvious that the majority of the film is fictional. Marilyn is a mere template that represents all women in mid-century Hollywood. Substitute Hollywood for America in any of the scenes and you’re dealing aces.

Not to get off on a tangent but that’s where we’re headed. The source material “Blonde” a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, originally published in 2000, was previously made into a CBS mini-series broadcast in 2001. It’s unlikely Dominik’s version will ever be confused with television fodder.

While the film is rated NC-17, technically that’s a misnomer since the movie theater chains that won’t show hyper rated films already don’t currently book films from streamers. “Blonde” is released through Netflix.

The controversy over the rating is ridiculous, I could name a handful of high profile films from the 1970s, which were rated “R,” that are far more explicit than “Blonde.”

“Blonde” offers scenes that reflect a hillside fire reflected onto a windshield. It’s only later you realize this is one of the coolest images you’ve ever seen in a film.

Dominik uses wide lenses in many scenes. On top of which Dominik frames the majority of the film in 4:3, which was the standard frame in movie up until the 1950s. The way Dominik switches out the boxy aspect ratio for widescreen catches the viewer unaware.

By comparison a filmmaker like Wes Anderson mixes and matches aspect ratios but it’s not subtle. Almodovar once in a blue moon uses an aspect ratio switch and like Dominik you don’t notice. Likewise much of the film is in black-and-white that seamlessly blends with the minority of color scenes.

Marilyn gets abused, raped by a studio head, and in an early scene her mother tries to drown her. Marilyn is the poster child for 20th-century feminine abuse.

Recreations of existing movies are spot on, like Monroe’s supporting role in the Richard Widmark starrer, the 1952 “Don’t Bother To Knock.” Other recreations include “Some Like It Hot” and “The Seven Year Itch.” Yet each Marilyn movie scene gasps for air, suffocating under the weight of its own pretension. JFK certainly gets tossed under the bus.

Not a film for everyone while at the same time a venerable watch, “Blonde” sets a high bar for a new millennium biopic.

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