STARDOM, directed by Denys Arcand, written by Arcand and J. Jacob Potashnik, produced by Denise Robert, with Jessica Paré, Dan Aykroyd, Robert Lepage and Frank Langella. An Alliance release. 103 minutes. Opens Friday (October 27). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 84. Rating: NNNNN
When people talk about artists making sacrifices for their art, they probably don't think of anything like what Denys Arcand did to make Stardom, his study of junk culture as represented by the infotainment medium as it represents the world of fashion.
Arcand is one of the best-known Canadian filmmakers. The Decline Of The American Empire and Jesus Of Montreal won multiple Genie Awards. He's been honoured at the Cannes festival. Decline even received an Academy Award nomination. To make Stardom, he needed full access to the big Paris fashion shows, out front, backstage, the whole thing. But as Denys Arcand, international filmmaker, he couldn't get it.
In a suite at the Intercontinental, Arcand chuckles at the recollection. "I became an assistant cameraman for Fashion Television.
"Karl Lagerfeld said to me, 'You want to make something permanent. Something permanent doesn't benefit us.' And he's right. Fashion is a business built on the ephemeral and the instantly obsolescent."
Examines lives But why, one might ask, is a man who's examined the lives of bourgeois Quebec intellectuals, looked at the nature of religious faith in the contemporary world and made documentaries about the textile industry interested in making a movie about a fashion model?
"I became interested in the phenomenon of models several years ago. Suddenly, there were these girls who were instantly famous. And in terms of instant fame, it had to be a model. Even Britney Spears does something -- she sings. But these girls don't do anything. They have no achievement. They're famous because they got lucky in the genetic lottery."
Once its heroine (Jessica Paré) is discovered, everything in Stardom is presented in terms of trash television clips that mimic the style of Fashion Television, Inside Edition and Access Hollywood. Arcand cheats slightly, casting Quebec theatre director and filmmaker Robert Lepage as a man making a documentary about Paré's character, with an apparently unlimited amount of film stock.
"Television is a kind of intermediate reality. It can bring us anything in the world, live, but most of the time it brings us things that aren't interesting in and of themselves. They are things that are interesting only because they're on television.
Different style "I spent a long time trying to figure out how to tell the story," says Arcand. "It occurred to me that we perceive these people entirely through television. They have no other reality to us. So we decided to shape the narrative through these events. It made it easier to tell the story, but much more difficult to shoot, because we had to be aware of the different camera styles all the time."
The unintended side effect, though, was that making the film turned out to be the perfect preparation for doing publicity for the film. "When we were walking up the stairs at the Cannes premiere, I was telling Jessica to stay calm. She just said, 'It's no problem. I've already played this scene.'"