Let me start by advising: if you like celebrity documentaries; if you are comfortable with what that implies, then this will be something special. At the very least, it has what might be the best opening possible for such a thing.
We have three overlapping things that are introduced in the first minute. We have Judy singing a song about herself, and how it is just her alone singing to us. The song is intensely personal and the direct connection between her and us individually is explicit. The song itself is a biography.
Weaved into this, moving into the foreground soundwise is a tape recording Judy made toward a written biography that never happened. What she says is equally naked and direct. Her audience in both cases is disembodied -- I think the singing was on her TeeVee show. But the connection with us is visceral. Overlain in both the singing and tape are words that tell us that Judy left these tapes and notes toward a biography and the implication is that what we will see is what she indicated. More, that what we see will be as if she herself were making the documentary.
(It is never clear whether the voice we hear narrating is genuinely Judy's voice or an impersonator reading or reinterpreting her words. The ambiguity is deliberate.) This mix of her uniquely direct, open and vulnerable manner, the personal words to the song and the conceit that we are hearing something directly from offstage Judy makes this something unlike any celebrity voyeurism you will experience. The construction and particularly the editing are expert.
But here's the thing. This woman is damaged, damaged in such a way that when she reaches out, she reaches from the deepest part of her soul, without the protections we usually have. And without the normal intellectual shapes that help us register our partner. She just is there, completely open.
That's why we come to her, in her various performance modes.
Now this, which is a strange, strange mix. It has one foot in those performances, and they're really wonderful to see bits and pieces strung this way. But the other half is the story of the performer, mentally ill, doped up, full of demons, the very demons that make her attractive.
And we have the designated bad guy, Louis Mayer and the studio system that exploited her. But that's too patent. He was just one in a short chain of market forces that connect our consumption of her to the rape. We can tut tut about all those bad people When she was alive, it was us, and it still is.
So this is strange, so very strange. It is as if we owned slaves whose job was to amuse us in ways that make us question slavery and we respond by creating isolating middlemen and continue to gawk. A sort of powerporn that allows many of us to be closed to life. But even those it awakens suffer.
Its a dilemma in our souls, one that makes me question the very nature of film experience. If the thing is true, and some new light appears within us and some unknown turbine in our deepest selves stirs to life -- can we make it worth it if in the process a fairy dies each time our match is lit?
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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