"Vox Lux" is released - a drama with Natalie Portman about a pop star whose career began with a personal trauma associated with a school terrorist attack. The film's director Brady Corbett - once an actor from leading directors from Haneke to Trier - is filming for the second film after Leader's Childhood about the formation of character in a repressive environment with severe restrictions. We tell you that Vox Lux, which its creator calls a “portrait of the 21st century,” talks about superstars, popularity and violence.
ATTENTION: the text contains spoilers.
TEXT: Alisa Tayozhnaya, author of the telegram channel "See Once"
“Now the media can simultaneously cover the massacres and something about Ariana Grande, who cut her ponytail. In twenty or thirty years, when we are about to cross the border of the middle of the century and we already have some idea of life, what events will be considered to determine our time? I think there has been a huge cultural shift since Columbine and 9/11. When people look back, they will remember Britney Spears along with 9/11. Pop music is just a way to talk about pop culture,”Vox Lux director Brady Corbett told Vulture. His second film was shown at the Venice Film Festival and touched on a topic that is usually talked about in the media, but not in cinema: how much the flow of news and popular people affect our understanding of modernity, identity and political consciousness.
The spate of controversy following Beyoncé's Lemonade film / album or Childish Gambino's This Is America music video, Hozier's anthem against homophobia and Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer Prize are just a few prominent examples of pop culture infused with politics. Brady Corbett comes up with a pop star of a different kind - not throwing political slogans from the stage, but distracting viewers from today's nightmares. Vox Lux actress Natalie Portman, who plays the most caustic role in her filmography, speaks of the "glory of evil" when people are rewarded with attention for doing bad things. The more outrageous, unpleasant and vulgar this person is, the more energy we spend on thinking and talking about him. " The main competition of the twenty-first century is for our time and attention - and huge sums of money are paid for it.
Vox Lux, which is atypical for a modern film, is divided into two successive parts about the childhood and maturity of a superstar. We do not know anything about the origin of the main character Celeste, except that her parents are unlucky contemporaries of Reagan America, who received not so many benefits and privileges. Since childhood, Celeste (Raffy Cassidy) had something special that cannot be described in words, but made others pay attention to her. But nothing suggested a stellar future: Celeste's family clearly did not have money for agents, acting classes and travel to auditions. But one day, during a music lesson, a guy with lowered eyes and false eyelashes rushes into the classroom and shoots at his classmates, hitting several teenagers - including Celeste's throat.
The school tragedy is covered all over the country, the children are admitted to the hospital, and the nation's attention is riveted on their recovery from the trauma. Lying in the hospital and unable to even bend her head, Celeste is practicing on a small portable keyboard with the support of Ellie's older sister - for some reason she feels guilty that she was not there during the tragedy. Celeste will take medications for life due to her injury and endure unbearable pain. At the collective farewell ceremony, she will prepare a song to the accompaniment of Ellie and turn to crying parents with the song “Wrapped Up” - an appeal either to a loved one or to God: “Epic fails save me from myself”.
No one creates illusions: the pop star exists as long as
looking at her
The banal text, which does not mean anything and can mean everything, hit the right moment and reached everyone. In front of the cameras, Celeste will become a sensation, the trauma of a teenage girl will be part of her stage identity. School tragedy is easy to monetize, especially considering how much the public loves personal stories that have become poems and songs. Celeste in a choker (at the site of the shot scar) is made a professional recording, she is taken into circulation by a grasping producer and taken to Manhattan, where the twin towers still stand. Celeste and Ellie cut the streets of New York like icebreakers - they feel like winners.
Success is not long in coming, and two successful singles are followed by a trip to Stockholm - the Mecca of ambitious producers. Brady Corbett inserts a witty commentary on the origins of the Swedish scene and production culture. In the 40s, the pro-fascist government of Sweden wanted to ward off the "infection" of American music through local braces and founded an unprecedented number of music schools for children and young people, so that the country had its own musical culture based on folklore. Decades later, Sweden is home to ABBA (and a progressive social welfare society) and is now the home of Robyn and Lykke Li, where some of the most addictive pop hits on earth are written. Celeste is brought here to shoot a video, the first night out and record with an intellectual European sound. Celeste will lose her virginity in one night with the attack of the Twin Towers at home, and lying with a stubborn guy in a hotel room, she opens up: "I don't want people to think a lot, I want them to be just fine." The rise of Celeste coincides with the millennium, her stage image is born literally at the dawn of the XXI century.
We meet the main character again sixteen years later. She has a teenage daughter (played by the same Raffy Cassidy), Ellie's older sister still writes all of her songs (and no one knows about this), everyone who once doubted Celeste now works for her. The worse her songs are, the more popular she becomes. This is what addictive music means: something has to be played in malls, parties and cafes in big cities. Explaining the success of herself and not her sister, Celeste says that finding a way to present is just as important as making good material. “Whether you are Michelangelo or Mike and Angelo”, in the era of nobrow it is the same thing: the main thing is to produce hits with a machine gun burst - so that they fire “faster than bullets from AK-47”. Celeste utters the classic British joke of the Beatles “now we are more popular than Jesus” without a shadow of self-irony - and this infinitely removes her from the pop stars of the 60s.
The plot loops - Celeste is again accompanied by a terrorist attack: a group of people wearing masks from her first hit video shoot a beach in Croatia. Finding suitable words does not work quickly, and for business reasons it is dangerous to cancel a concert. Brady Corbett's parable of narcissism continues the familiar story of a man in the spotlight who gets away with everything. You can apologize to your sister by shoving the first bouquet you come across in the hotel with the note "I'm sorry, I'm a c ** a", the daughter will still look in her mouth, the producer will endure another breakdown - that's why he is the producer. Celeste calls herself a "damaged bill" in the songs and uses the flashing letters "Baby" "Avec" "Cash" in the background. No one creates illusions: the pop star exists while they are looking at her. When Celeste is asked about her connection with terrorism, she expresses a shocking but sober idea: "If you ignore the terrorists, they will disappear just like me."
Natalie Portman exploits painful experiences as the final argument in any awkward conversation
Brady Corbett says that he wrote the story after the explosion at the Parisian club "Bataclan" in November 2015, he lived a step from the concert hall with his wife and small child.One of Europe's premier pop concert locations, Bataclan was a symbol of Parisian nightlife, fun and freedom - and the terrorist attack was seen primarily as an attack on French progressive youth. Corbet recalls the time when Britney Spears' skinhead worried Americans more than the mortgage crisis, but this tragedy of one person eventually became an anecdote, and Britney's star was reborn.
Natalie Portman's character - a diva-abuser with alcohol addiction, on account of which one accident with the victim - exploits the painful experience as the last argument in any uncomfortable conversation: from an argument with a producer to an interview with a journalist. Juggling facts and skillfully manipulating the right people are the same pattern for stellar behavior as creating identical soundtracks in a modern hit factory. It is no coincidence that pop songs, written in every conceivable style according to the rules of millenial whoop, bear this name: since the turn of the millennium, music has been associated with consumption much more than with creativity. Celeste is the embodiment of something elusively familiar, common, universal, which should make you feel good, but which does not make you think too much, an antidote to fear and anxiety in front of inexplicable terrorist attacks and inevitable tragedies.
"Torn bill" is a much better metaphor for most commercial stars than "torn soul" or "sick heart". And when Celeste sings “it’s one for the money / two for the show / three to get ready / now go go go!” From the stage, the generation with cultural amnesia (which it is not their fault) will not even recognize Elvis Presley's lyrics. Hits flicker like disturbing news and ads on social networks - and Michelangelo has irreversibly mixed with Mike and Angelo. Which is by no means bad, but symptomatic and seems to be irreversible. But instead of stating the decline of civilization, Brady Corbett finds in our time a different meaning: “Pop music is not flat, but it is corporate … It is similar to panel houses. If you start reading about Walter Gropius, it's amazing architecture. But you can blame him and Le Corbusier for how awful our sleeping areas look. In mass construction, no one will use Gropius' materials, and no one has his craftsmanship. His work deteriorates by itself, and now we have box houses. But even in this case, all folk things have their own value."