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[Critique] Arlette is a project full of pitfalls

[Critique] Arlette is a project full of pitfalls

In a main scene from the movie ArletteMariloup Wolfe’s third, Maripier Morin, is depicted in a shiny corset, panties, collar and royal blue cape, on throne, sceptre in hand. The photo – which is on the front page of a news magazine – is titled “La Culture, c’est moi”, a reference to the apocryphal phrase attributed to Louis XIV “l’Etat, c’est moi”.

This anecdote alone can sum up what the film’s artisans tried to make: satire punctuated by reference images, where social criticism is enhanced with a good dose of erudition and intertextuality, all without losing sight of audiences eager for laughter and entertainment.

Suffice it to say that they worked hard to dig their own abyss because the ambition was vast and full of traps.

Quebec Prime Minister Arlette Saint-Amour (Maribere Maureen), designer and director of a fashion magazine, called to renew his government’s image. Manipulated like a pawn on a chessboard, overnight she found herself Minister of Culture – “Minister of Nothing”, as we like to mention her in the National Assembly.

It was without counting the boldness and determination of the young woman. Within a few months, thanks to her looks and candor, she was able to create a real fervor about culture, to encourage artists and writers, regardless of budget, neoliberal convictions and the colossal strength of her fellow financials. Then begins a ruthless struggle between two worldviews, two personalities and two generations – a struggle dictated by the power of the image and the ability to strike.

The hypothesis does not offer half-measures to show the challenges and prejudices that women face in the patriarchal environment, while flaunting the absurdities that pervade the political world. The boys clubsSexism, misogyny, the burden of beauty, neoliberalism, zero impotence, elite corruption and artist hypocrisy have all been touched upon at one time or another. Although the reflections are interesting, they are worth digging deeper.

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Luster vs Truth

Filmed in the corridors of the National Assembly, the film seeks to embrace superficiality to better feed it, notably by amplifying the parallels between the political world of Quebec and the court of the Palace of Versailles or randomly Buckingham.

Expressive and eloquent Baroque melodies by Vivaldi, Bach and others open the scenes; They were crowned – like somewhat Bridgeton, the hit Netflix series – with the imposing and impressive voice of Gilbert Secot. Glowing combos and costumes. The camera lingers on the stately frescoes, doubling the circular wide shots and making use of dim lighting to airy the space, without entirely succeeding in making people forget the austerity of the Blue Room.

The story also struggles to avoid the pitfalls of the caricature to present the substance and interior that would allow the audience to learn about (or at least engage with) the characters’ pursuit. Even the heroine has a few scenes scattered here and there – and in general not very useful – to give a glimpse into her background, values, and personal life. It’s a bizarre movie about a movie that seeks to explain the gulf between women and the politician.

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In his direction, Mariloup Wolfe in spite of everything managed to immortalize moments of truth and highlight the talent of actors of the caliber of Paul Ahmarani, Antoine Bertrand and Benoît Brière. In the title role, Maribere Maureen withdrew from the game and showed a natural overshadowing of the woman behind the actress.

However, this erasure is short-lived. Once the credits wrap and attention returns to the star, it’s hard not to see Arlette’s character as a mirror raised in front of the actress – who in her final years withdrew from public life, targeted with allegations of sexual harassment, physical assault and racism – as well as society.

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The production, by choosing to put the actress’ talent before her personal story, deliberately poses the question to the audience: Can we separate art from artist? We’ll see the answer in the room.


★★ 1/2

Drama Marilope Wolf. With Maribere Maureen, Gilbert Secot, David La Haye and Paul El Ahmarani. Canada, 2022, 118 minutes. Inside.

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