This year, the iconic American actress Marilyn Monroe will not be spotted at Cannes! Yes, yes, we know, she is long gone. She died in 1962 of a barbiturate overdose. What we meant was that a biopic of hers titled Blonde will not screen at the 75th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. The Festival this year takes place from May 17 to 28. It may come as a huge disappointment to her fans at the French Riviera who would have loved to see her legendary life resurrected on the big screen.
If Hollywood has been keeping Monroe alive, Cannes has not been far behind either. Ten years ago, Cannes chose a black-and-white shot of hers for the Festival poster – which described her as “an eternal icon whose grace, mystery and power of seduction remain resolutely contemporary … the Festival is a temple of glamour and Marilyn is its perfect incarnation.”
Blonde, helmed by Andrew Dominik, was reportedly loved by the Festival chief, Thierry Fremaux. He wanted the biopic to be part of Cannes’ official selections. Dominik was thrilled. But who is to stop the powerful lobby of France’s theatre owners and distributors.
Produced by Netflix, Blonde was caught in a crossfire between the streaming giant and the Festival. Blonde had to bow to the wishes of the lobby. It had ruled that if a movie were to play in competition, it must open in French cinemas soon after. It cannot stream for 18 months!
In a compromise, Netflix offered a window period of eight months between a theatrical release and its platform. Fremaux could not accept this. This means Cannes’ loss could be Venice’s gain. We have seen this in previous years with films like Roma, Marriage Story and The Power of the Dog, which were loved on the Lido (the quaint island off mainland Venice that hosts the Festival) and went on to win accolades at the Oscars.
But reportedly, Blonde is not all hunky-dory. The movie could erase the sheen off Monroe. Dominik’s work is said to be hard and brutal, far from the kind of reverence we saw in some other biopics like, for instance, Spencer. “There is something in the film to offend everyone”, the director told the media a few days ago. “It’s a demanding movie. If the audience doesn’t like it, that’s their problem. It’s not running for public office.”
Blonde is based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates that was published in 2000. The book speaks about rape. Dominik has been mulling over this project ever since the book came out and Blonde is dream come true for him. And with Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas starring as Monroe, Blonde seems perfect. Armas, who gave a lovely performance in Knives Out and Sergio, is said to have completely disappeared into the character. Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts were to have essayed the part earlier, but the deals fell through. So, Ana is the new Marilyn!
The author, who saw the rough cut of the film, described it as “startling, brilliant, very disturbing and perhaps most surprisingly an utterly ‘feminist’ interpretation … not sure that any male director has ever achieved anything [like] this.”