Second Sight: The Horror of Andrew Dominik's Blonde


The Hollywood of Andrew Dominik's design is a nightmare wonderland, full of broken dreams and poisoned promises.  Based on Joyce Carol Oates massive tome, Blonde is a fictional accounting of the life and death of Norma Jean Mortensen, whose alter ego, Marilyn Monroe is considered to be one of the most iconic symbols of Americana.  A brutal, grotesque sojourn into the darkness of a world without law or morality, this is without a doubt the most uncomfortable and polarizing cinematic event of the year.  Featuring one of the best leading performances in recent history, an oppressive malignant ambiance, and stunning visuals, this is pure provocation given form. 

Ana De Armas stars as Marilyn in what is an absolutely breathtaking performance.  In an era where Monroe has been distilled down to the very essence of her soul via countless films and novels, De Armas manages to conjure the abject trauma of abuse, transmuting a legendary sex symbol into a symbolic offering on the altar of fame and fortune.  Any concerns about De Armas' accent are instantly forgotten as she draws the viewer into Marilyn's plight.  This, much like Hereditary, is a story about lambs to the slaughter, from the lamb's point of view, and no one is going to get out alive. 

Much of the controversy around the film comes from mismarketing and a lack of understanding of the source material.  While Marilyn is the subject, Oates, and more so Dominik's true target is the industry machine and Blonde is a violent, terrifying dissent on how the artistic medium has been hijacked by greed and lust almost from its inception. Men of power in ivory towers care little for the art, it is the dollar, and the power that comes with it that is of almost religious import. 

Chayse Irvin's cinematography rivals De Armas' gravitas.  Switching between color and black and white along with shifting aspect ratios, the optics mirror the paranoia, fear, and false memories that form the foundation of "the golden days".   The sense that everything is very wrong cannot be avoided, and comparisons to Lynch will be unavoidable as a result. At its core this an adult oriented pitch-black fairy tale, a dreamlike amalgam of American pop culture's subconscious and the terrors within that have only recently begun to come to light and they loom in almost every single frame, stalking Marilyn from one horrific assault to another, all whilst she endlessly repeats her heartbreaking, skin crawling mantra of "Daddy". 

Now available for streaming on Netflix, Blonde is an endurance test that earns every bit of its NC-17 rating.  It is a feel bad affair that demands that the viewer bear witness to the murder of innocence in a modern-day celluloid Gethsemane.  Fans or any with an interest on Norma Jean's actual life will be disappointed (most likely repulsed) as this is a parable, not about the cost of fame, but about the illusion of glamour.  As the credits roll, the feeling of narrowly escaping a painful death will settle in the mind's eye, a bloodstained memento of Guignol spectacle. The American dream has long since died.  The nightmare is alive and well in Andrew Dominik's Hollywood, forever feasting on the next big thing. 

--Kyle Jonathan