Let’s start with the beginning. The film is titled Aline. Not Celine. Aline. In this slightly offbeat comedy, very loosely inspired by the life of Celine Dion, a 50-year-old French actress embodies a version of our national diva… when she is a little girl.
That is to say that the face of Valérie Lemercier, the screenwriter, director and main actress ofAline, is juxtaposed with the body of a child, in the Quebec of the 1970s. You can find it bizarre, laughable, ridiculous, ill-advised or in bad taste. The fact remains that it immediately sets the tone for the film, which is clearly not a realistic or naturalistic work.
An adult plays a child. It’s a convention, like in the theater. Currently at TNM, in The Queens, by Normand Chaurette, Sophie Cadieux plays a teenage girl who claims to be 12 years old and Sylvie Léonard, a 90-year-old duchess.
We call that the consented suspension of incredulity: accepting, during the time that a work lasts, an artist’s proposal, however improbable or incongruous it may seem.
I am the first to criticize a classic filmed biography, presenting itself as such, for taking liberties with the story, by offering a distorted image of events. Because there is a danger that an incorrect interpretation of the facts in a biopic does not substitute for reality, in the mind of the viewer.
Valérie Lemercier in no way claims to be faithful to the factual reality of Celine Dion’s life. She was inspired by Céline’s atypical career to create a hybrid character, in tribute to the artist of Charlemagne. Like Gus Van Sant in Last Days, inspired by the last days of Kurt Cobain, without being the exact and precise account of it.
Has Todd Haynes been criticized for the unrealism of his dreamlike biography of Bob Dylan, I’m Not There, who in particular directed a woman (Cate Blanchett) in the role of the poet? And yet Roc Lafortune also played a role in it…
It is not only because in Quebec, we like first names composed in Louis-José and Jean-René that characters of Valérie Lemercier are called Jean-Bobin and Guy-Claude. It is to underline in broad strokes thatAline is a fake biopic. That the characters are fictitious and that the reported facts are not scrupulously true.
Valérie Lemercier embraced her artistic license. She took liberties, of course, but clearly showing her colors. Aline is not a conventional film biography. It couldn’t be more obvious. It should come as no surprise that Celine Dion, unlike Aline Dieu, never came out of a window in a wedding dress, or that a fictitious character with an improbable first name is not the true author of the song that has launched his career.
We will not be surprised more that Celine Dion’s family is not delighted by this cinematic proposal, as we saw on Tuesday on the set of Julie Snyder. The entourage of a public figure is rarely satisfied with the treatment of a biopic, except when it is an authorized and bleached hagiography.
I could have started with another beginning: Aline is not a great movie, far from it. But this is not at all the disaster apprehended or the insult in Quebec decried by Claudette Dion. It’s a nice French-style comedy that made me think of Jean Philippe by Laurent Tuel, with Fabrice Luchini as an admirer of Johnny Hallyday.
It is as much a film about Valérie Lemercier’s relationship to Celine Dion as it is about Celine Dion herself, for whom the actress and filmmaker has, obviously, not only fascination and admiration, but also a lot. affection.
No, she does not ignore the elements of the myth that we have all been steeped in for decades. Aline sleeps as a child, like Celine, in a dresser drawer. Aline did not have good teeth as a teenager, like Celine, when she met her Pygmalion. On the other hand, Céline, unlike Aline, did not have a gay makeup artist, noted the singer’s brother and ex-manager, Michel Dion …
What we reproach Valérie Lemercier, it is not only to have taken liberties. It is to have appropriated a character from popular Quebec mythology for the benefit of a work of fiction of which she is the author and the star, when she is French and does not master the Quebec accent.
However, we must go beyond the dissonant accent of Valérie Lemercier. He, too, is part of the film convention. If the filmmaker had no consideration for the Quebecness of the story she chose to direct, she would not have hired Quebec actors.
Whether we like it or not, Celine does not belong to us. Although she was born in Quebec, she lived in the United States for most of her career and it was in France that the full potential of her artistic register was revealed, thanks to Two, written and directed by Jean-Jacques Goldman.
The “pride of Charlemagne” is universal. Céline Dion is a chameleon, who knows how to adapt to please. She learned to do it from an early age. She takes a sharper accent – which is not so far from that played by Valérie Lemercier – when she is interviewed in Paris, adapts to the Oprah style of controlled confidence for the American media, then bites to the fullest. in the joual when it is in representation with us.
The semblance of controversy around the release, Friday, of Valérie Lemercier’s film is a reminder if necessary of our collective difficulty in accepting that a point of view on us from abroad – in particular French – is not Undoubtedly flattering and without roughness. Do not touch our Celine!
Aline is not quite Celine. It’s a fantasy. A pastiche or a caricature, perhaps, but neither a satire nor a parody. The tone of Valérie Lemercier is not mockery or mockery. He is neither mean nor condescending. His film is, on the contrary, a work that exudes benevolence. There are even touching scenes, like the one where Aline, distraught and without landmarks, wanders the streets of Las Vegas to the sound of Going to a Town, de Rufus Wainwright. « I’m so tired of you, America… »
I am the antithesis of a Celine Dion lover. However, I did not shy away from my pleasure in front of this entertaining, comical and amusing comedy. Aline is a flamboyant, extravagant, rococo, kitsch, blue flower, syrupy, romantic, melodramatic, tragicomic film. It is above all a film that does not take itself seriously. Exactly like Celine Dion.
As Maman Dion would have said (or not), if you’re not worth a laugh, you’re not worth much …