Friday October 27, 2000

     Denys Arcand's "Stardom" traces the arc of a beautiful small-town Canadian woman from hockey player to world-famous fashion model and beyond. The trouble is that French Canadian Arcand, whose memorable "The Decline of the American Empire" and "Jesus of Montreal" were both foreign-language Oscar nominees, takes us down a familiar path without discovering anything new along the way.
     Arcand realizes he needs a fresh twist, but the best he can come up with is to present Jessica Pare's Tina Menzhal entirely through the lens of a film or video or TV camera. When she's not being seen in newscasts or on TV shows, she's conveniently being taped by a sympathetic fashion photographer-cum-documentarian (Robert Lepage), to whom she looks as a confidant. His constantly running camera seems for her a kind of therapy and validation of her existence, possibly even an addiction, but at times becomes, understandably, annoying.
     It might have proved more profitable for Arcand to explore this ambivalence in Tina further than to devote so much time to a clutch of TV news commentators and talk-show personalities, who are consistently obnoxious and dense stereotypes. So much time is spent on them, the film's minuses outweigh its pluses.
     Ironically, Pare's Tina is as beguiling as she is beautiful, an uncomplicated but resilient young woman whose fate might hold our attention without the tricky media layering.
     Beauties like her seem always to become involved with thuddingly unsuitable older men. She first has an affair with the slimy French fashion photographer (Charles Berling) who propels her to professional heights; then with a trendy Montreal restaurateur (Dan Aykroyd), so besotted with her that he self-destructs--making Aykroyd look foolish in the process; and finally with a snooty, sophisticated U.N. ambassador (Frank Langella), a patent mismatch.
     That Arcand regards Tina's story above all a media commentary makes it difficult for the film to come alive and become involving, and it says something for Pare's poise and presence that we come to care about Tina, though not about "Stardom."

Stardom, 2000. R, for language and sexual content. A Lions Gate Films release of an Alliance Atlantis and Serendipity Point Film presentation in association with Cinemaginaire and Cine b. Director Denys Arcand. Producers Denise Robert, Robert Lantos. Screenplay by Denys Arcand and Jacob Potashnik. Cinematographer Guy Defaux. Editor Isabelle Dedieu. Costumes Michel Robidas. Production designer Zoe Sakellaropoulo. Art director Jean Morin. Set decorator Louise Pilon. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. Jessica Pare as Tina Menzhal. Dan Aykroyd as Barry Levine. Frank Langella as Blaine de Castillon. Robert Lepage as Bruce Taylor.

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