The “Master Gardener” director praised Andrew Dominik’s Netflix film for its “brilliance and inventiveness” but called out the constraints of staying within the biography of the late blonde bombshell, portrayed by Ana de Armas.
“There is one thing wrong about this film,” Schrader posted on Facebook. “Given the back and forth carping I held off seeing ‘Blonde’ but when I did I was thunderstruck by its brilliance and inventiveness. Dominick’s kaleidoscopic approach, juxtaposing colors, screen formats, camera styles, music, sound effects, and image manipulation create an indelible character study. But it’s not Marilyn Monroe. That’s the one thing wrong part.”
Schrader continued, “This would have been far better if freed from MM’s history (even though it fictionalizes cringingly, ‘Blonde’ is defined by its historical model). The criticism applies to the novel as well. Why the gleeful need to jump on Monroe’s cadaver for a romp? Can’t these fabulators trust their own creativeness? Was their need to exploit irresistible?”
The “Taxi Driver” screenwriter concluded, “Dominick made a great film, but it wasn’t about Marilyn Monroe. His great film is now a curiosity. Critics say he did Marilyn no favors. I think it’s the other way around. MM did him no favors.”
Paul Schrader was a surprise guest at IndieWire’s live recording of Screen Talk at the New York Film Festival.
The controversy surrounding “Blonde” began with de Armas’ casting, peaked with the shocking NC-17 rating for rumored violent sexual assault sequences, and most recently culminated in Planned Parenthood responding to criticisms that the film was anti-choice in its portrayal of abortion.
Dominik has his own take on Monroe’s filmography, even deeming “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” as merely a feature about “well-dressed whores.”
He likened the making of the film to an “acid trip” in an interview with IndieWire.
“I think Marilyn Monroe represents a kind of rescue fantasy,” he said. “Most of the stuff that’s written about her has this impulse behind it of, ‘I really knew her, I understood her.’ You read that in Norman Mailer’s book, you read it in Gloria Steinem’s book, and ‘Blonde’ is no different. I think she appeals to that strong desire to rescue, and maybe the shadow side of that is a punishment fantasy.”
He added, “I think that that’s not a good thing — if you want to rescue somebody, they probably need rescuing from you. I mean, that’s what the film’s doing. It’s basically saying, here’s this person nobody else in the movie understands, but we, the audience understand everything and wish we could just step in, or we wish they would notice, or we wish they would see her as she is. And it’s constantly thwarted and denied. I think that the people that don’t like the film are following that same instinct, they want to protect her. They want to protect her from me, and even the ones that love Ana but don’t like the film, they want to save her from this horrible movie! So I feel like it’s a measure of success of the film in a way.”