Blonde ★★

"This is a city of sand, nothing will long endure"

Blonde is, as you'll probably be aware by this point, a highly contentious piece of work, one that's proven to be a divisive talking point since before the film's premiere at Venice. It's not hard to see why, from the film's onslaught of hard-edged NC-17 rated misery to the already polarizing source text, a fictional account of Marilyn Monroe's life penned by Joyce Carol Oates. For me, the main issue is a failure of both aim and execution. The intention is obviously to provoke, disturb, to critique a system that creates icons before using them as cultural currency until they are burnt out and empty. The problem then, is how this is achieved, an overlong and overstuffed parade of brutality and torture that far too often indulges in the very issues it claims to be dissecting. There's a total (and strangely enough very deliberate) disinterest in its subject as an actual person, instead exploiting Monroe's memory as much as the culture it expresses so much contempt for. Without that necessary empathy, it ends up hollow and cruel, giving into its worst impulses the longer it goes on (and on, and on) until anything it has to say is totally diluted by seemingly endless brutality. Dominik's intentions never feel pure, which then results in yet another misrepresentation of one of Hollywood's most iconic and unfortunate stars, and as a result, the whole thing ends up feeling less like the unflinching tragedy it bills itself as, and more like a cowardly and cruel joke. It is a miserable and tired affair, and a total disappointment. Of the two major Netflix-released Old Hollywood stories, you're far better off watching the excellent Mank instead.

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