A filmmaker’s journey to the heart of Celine Dion

“I’m often asked why I played her as a kid, and I often say that I’m like a lawyer defending her client: I won’t send my assistant to handle the beginning when it’s difficult,” she said . “I don’t want to send a kid to the dentist so they can open their mouth wide to show their crooked teeth. When I was a kid, I heard uncomfortable comments about my looks, so I wanted to be the one on the receiving end in the film. I didn’t just want to play the sexy, glamorous woman that we see at the end.”

There are hints of autobiography throughout the film, particularly in young Aline’s urge to act. Lemercier grew up with three sisters in a farming family and quickly learned that their goofing around could cheer up the depressed mother. “When I made people laugh at a young age, even under five, I immediately felt that I existed, that I had a purpose, that I wouldn’t be useless,” Lemercier said. “For me it’s the joy of making people laugh and for them it’s the joy of singing.”

Born in Normandy, Lemercier moved to Paris when she was 18 and her career took off in the late 1980s thanks to guest appearances on the sketch series Palace. Her commercial breakthrough came in 1993 with the blockbuster The Visitors, which earned her a César for Best Supporting Actress, and she made her feature film debut as a director in 1997 with Quadrille, a mischievously stylish, beautifully directed adaptation of a play by Sacha Guitry.

She was converted to the Church of Celine through one of her solo outings in the mid-1990s. “I was doing a show at the Théâtre de Paris, and an usher who was a Celine fan sang me her songs,” Lemercier recalled. She decided to make a film about the star after seeing her at the funeral of Angélil, who died in 2016. “He was gone and I wondered how she would deal with that. It touched me.”

For French viewers, the film’s affectionate tone confused their notions of Lemercier and her style. Her humor can be quite dark, especially in the theater, and she happily capitalizes on the jarring disconnect between her elegant, confident appearance — she looked impeccably put together in our video chat — and crude, often scatological jokes. Her satirical barbs haven’t spared peers like Juliette Binoche, who was once the target of one biting fake ads.

“Everyone thought I was going to do a parody, but that was never my plan,” Lemercier said of “Aline.” “I’m not much for tenderness; It really annoys me in general, and I tend towards sarcasm. But this time – no,” she continued. “I wanted to be sincere, to write an open love letter.” (Among other things, some of Dion’s siblings have criticized the film for saying it was a caricature of their family. Early in the process, Lemercier passed her script to Dion’s French manager, who she said approved of the tone. A rep explained in an email, “Celine has not seen the film nor does she have any comments on it.”)

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/31/movies/valerie-lemercier-aline-celine-dion.html A filmmaker’s journey to the heart of Celine Dion

Isaiah Colbert

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