Do biopics still exist?
In this age of information explosion and data images everywhere, it is really a waste of time to invite a group of big directors and stars to concoct a biographical drama. Many times the contemporary public no longer needs old-school Hollywood biopics. All the narrations of desire, ups and downs, fuelling and heroism have become too routine and too cheap. Why waste your energy on a strictly formulaic news story when the raw material and the detailed Wikipedia are right in front of you?
For creators, biopics are also a shackled genre. Every sizable biopic of a celebrity is a writing of a propositional composition with many restrictions. It is necessary to integrate every important node of the biographer’s life into the story without sacrificing the visibility of the plot and making the whole film into a running account. , but also in the attitude towards the master, trying to meet the needs of his fans, passers-by who want to know him/her, as well as historians and famous researchers. It’s no wonder that big directors rarely attempt celebrity biopics—a thankless task.
In contrast, actors love to star in biopics. After all, the genre is their best advertisement for acting, and a shortcut to acting awards. Between creating a deep fictional character with hard work and restoring a well-known celebrity image with skill, which is more cost-effective? Answering this question is not difficult. So we see stars flocking to celebrity roles and being rewarded for it time and time again: Gary Oldman and Churchill (Darkest Hour), Eddie Redmayne and Hawking (The Theory of Everything), Rami Malek and Freddie Mercury (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), Renee Zellweger and Judy Garland (“Judy”), Meryl Stry Pope and Margaret Thatcher (“Iron Lady”)… When these performances step on the top of perhaps better performances and win golden statues again and again, you can’t blame the top actors for wasting their talents for fame and fortune. On the show of reality parody.
And when life officially entered the beginning of the three-character, actor Kristen Stewart, who became famous because of “Twilight” and entered the ranks of the elite with several excellent works in recent years, also decided to make his coffee position more popular. Take a new level. Her choice was to star in the biopic “Spencer” to bring back Princess Diana’s soul. But her performance is undoubtedly still lacking some enthusiasm: through skills and accents to restore the gestures of celebrities, British actors with rich stage experience are better at it, and Xiao K is an experiential actor. Her best performances basically occur in the role and its relationship with others. When there are similarities in personal temperament. As for the innocent and insecure Princess Diana, she is far from the nature of the cool girl K in California, so no matter how she adjusts her posture and breathing rhythm, trying to move them closer to the master, she can only be more A strong sense of dislocation between the actor and the character is clearly exposed.
But the dislocation between actors and characters can also be used by supporters of “Spencer” as one of the arguments to defend the film. In their view, there is a strange isomorphism between the rejection of the actors and the characters and the rejection of Diana herself and the status of the royal family. Therefore, Chilean director Pablo Larrain is also subverting the stereotypes of biographical films with the eyes and brushstrokes of an outsider.
We will not list the right or wrong of the argument itself, but we can find the rationality of the defender’s argument from Larain’s career history: he is indeed an expert at subverting biopic routines. His “The Hunt for Neruda” and “The First Lady” both take a different approach and avoid the stereotype of biopics, showing the tension between the biography and the grand historical narrative. And “Spencer” also continued Larain’s creative method: he did not try to paint a magnificent picture of the British royal family (of course, this method has been taken advantage of by the drama “The Crown”), but cut the Determined to be the last days that Diana spent at Kensington Palace before separation from Prince Charles, trying to use this powerful canvas to smudge Diana’s living conditions, as well as past and future.
Laraine’s method of presenting Diana’s situation is allegorical. In the film, he made it clear through the words of Diana: “In Kensington Palace, there is only one tense… There is no future here, and the past and the present are the same thing.” In the royal life shrouded in tradition, there is no Freedom, no hope, only the repetition of history again and again, only the possession of the souls of the dead again and again in today’s people. So Laraine will cleverly use the visual language system of the classic horror film “The Shining” to shape the nightmare of “Spencer”. After all, if you have to take the classics of film history as a reference, no film is more suitable as a metonymy of Diana’s situation than “The Shining” set in a ghost store.
But LaRaine made fatal mistakes in other ways. When trying to dismantle Diana’s spiritual predicament, he conventionally set up the British royal family as a cage for her, leaving her family of origin (and with her father and the Spencer family around Kensington Palace) her former home as an image spokesperson) set her free outlet, and the spiritual Eden she was trying to return to, completely ignoring her father’s utter disappointment at her birth (because he wanted a son) and who had confronted him in front of her. The fact that the mother committed domestic violence. Diana, who dreams of a return to the “Spencer” surname, is essentially just embracing another dimension of patriarchy after escaping one; for a 2021 film, this This setting is staggeringly conservative.
”Spencer” has had mixed reviews for its portrayal of Princess Diana. And from the perspective of the overall creation of the film, it is equally mixed: it tries to be retro and innovative at the same time, but in the end it only does the former. LaRaine escapes the stereotypical traditions of the biopic genre, but his adored cinematic father, Kubrick, likewise only shrouds the film, not liberates it and Laraine. Spencer is a stunning take on Kubrick classics like The Shining, Barry Lyndon, and Eyes Wide Shut in terms of photography, light, sets, costumes, and even sound-picture counterpoint. Reprint. But apart from re-engraving, has this practice brought anything new?
The answer is naturally no. And we at least know one thing: the vitality of contemporary cinema cannot be obtained from retro. To reinvigorate this art category, which is over 120 years old, creators must say what they really want to say, but also say something new. It is never a good idea to hope that fathers will be revived.