Andrew Dominik says cinema ‘getting more conservative’ and US movies ‘have turned into bedtime stories’
I think it’s fair to categorise the critical reaction to Andrew Dominik’s Blonde as ‘divided’.
With the Netflix film the Aussie director put Marilyn Monroe’s life, especially her iconography, under the microscope and used artistic licence to imagine how Monroe’s life might have been.
The result is a bleak, harrowing and sorrowful look at the life (and death) of the biggest movie star of the 20th century.
But the reaction to the movie, which was adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’ book of the same title, was visceral and extremely divided.
For his part, Dominik was accused of misogyny, sexism and exploiting Marilyn Monroe with “trauma porn”.
(I plan a longer write-up of my own full thoughts on Blonde after a rewatch over the festive period but my initial review is here).
Well, at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, Dominik had a chance to comment on the backlash, that was particularly pointed in the United States.
He brushed off the criticism: “Criticism only hurts if you agree with it, and I didn’t really agree with any of it,” he said, attributing the negative critical response in the United States to Americans wanting a “celebration of that person according to the morals of the time.”
“I’m Australian, from Melbourne — I came of age in the 80s when to offend your audience was a solemn duty,” said Dominik.
“The movie business has become less and less like that; the movie business and society in general has become very concerned with not offending people.
“There’s a good motive behind it, which is they want to be sensitive; but I don’t think that rewriting the truth about things is the right way.”
Dominik actually saved his strongest thoughts for American cinema (quotes via Variety):
“I think society, in general, is becoming more conservative, on both sides. People have weaponized their values against each other. There used to be more discourse, people were willing to talk to each other and now they’re not.
“Cinema is getting more and more conservative, you’re making bedtime stories. Do you know when you’re reading a kid a bedtime story and they know every word of the story? It’s kind of what American movies have turned into, where they know every word of the story and it brings them comfort. I don’t want to make bedtime stories.”
It is perhaps for Dominik to use that ‘bedtime story’ analogy as for me, Blonde was pretty close to a nightmare, or certainly a very nightmarish fairytale.
It’s not the first time the director has been so cutting about the very industry he’s in (this isn’t just sour grapes).
Speaking to ScreenDaily before the film was released he said:
“I see a movie I like maybe every two years. I just don’t think cinema is a vital artform anymore.”
Well it’ll probably be more time in ‘director jail’ for Dominik now. But not, I hope, another 10 years before we get to see a film by him.