One of the words used most often to describe French actress and comedian Valérie Lemercier is “crazy,” but even that doesn’t quite sum up the weirdness of her latest film, Aline, just released in the UK.
In this imagined biopic of singer Celine Dion, Lemercier, 58, plays the Canadian superstar at all ages, even children, disconcerting and troubling critics (the Guardian described as “horrible”).
Lemercier does not see what it is. “I really wanted the child to play and why not? I always play children in my shows, so it seemed quite normal, even if it may seem a little odd outside France,” she said.
Not as weird as it could have been. Lemercier said she also shot a scene with his face superimposed on a baby to represent the newborn Aline. To his regret, and perhaps the public relief, it ended on the floor of the editing room. “My producer asked me to leave it if I did it,” she said sadly. “We had great fun creating this illusion of youth. »
Lemercier is a big name in France, where she is best known for playing what they call crazy – the dippy characters and offbeat. She had seven theater productions for many years, which shows a woman, won two Césars, the French Oscars, for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and three Molières, the equivalent of the theater. She plays, sings, dances, wrote scripts, directed and performed three singles with other artists, as well as its own album.
On its release last November, Aline was hailed by French critics as “magnificent” and “jubilant and very moving,” and praised the best film of the actor to date, no small praise given Lemercier has 36 movies.
International examinations are less reverent: at the Cannes Film Festival last July 2021, American critics have variously described the film as “really weird”, “mad as hell” and “strange.” (A line due out in the US next month.)
The film follows the rise of the plain, but Aline talented French Canadian God, who dreams of becoming a famous singer. Aline girl – the youngest of 14 children of humble origins – is discovered by a music producer 26 years his senior, who propels to international stardom with the help of serious dental and dance classes (and with whom she falls in love and marries later in the film).
Warning Opening “this film is inspired by the life of Celine Dion. It is, however, a work of fiction “is in bad faith – is the story of the life of Dion. The superstar singer was discovered by director René Angélil mentor when she was 12, and she married him 26 years in 1994 in a lavish ceremony in which Dion wore a Swarovski crystal headdress weighing 3 kg; Aline is also a scene. Four years after their marriage Angelil was diagnosed with throat cancer. He died in 2016.
Lemercier never met Dion and did not get his approval before or since making the film. The closest it came to Dion is graze in a corridor of scenes. The script was written after Lemercier research and said that “some distance” probably was a good thing for the film, although she says she tried to contact the star.
“As soon as I finished writing the script, the first thing I did was to show it to [Dion’s] French official, who read it quickly and said she could see that it was not mocking, and I liked him. I needed to know that someone in the entourage of Celine had seen this film was well-intentioned.
When we meet in September last year, she does not know whether Dion saw the film. “I contacted the manager of Celine Dion in Quebec who said that maybe Celine would one day, but she was not interested. So who knows? “The family of the singer have since made clear they do not like Aline.
“If I were her, I’m not sure I’d be rushing to see it, but I hope the message got through to her because I just want her to know that this movie is a tribute.”
The Lemercier-Dion resemblance is eerie and fascinating. Lemercier reproduced the animated manners, gestures and the famous accent Quebec Dion. Lemercier also makes its way heroically lip in the musical repertoire of Dion, played in the film by the Franco-Italian singer Victoria Sio.
Our appointment is set at noon in the chic tea room Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, when Lemercier called to say she is late. His taxi application has failed, then his press suggests that, as it is not far, it could possibly work. The answer is no, perhaps explained by the fact that when Lemercier arrives, she wears what looks like a cross between Birkenstocks fantasy and furry slippers.
In person, outside of the shoe, is much less eccentric Lemercier as its reputation suggests. She is the cliché “funny girl” hilarious honored; disarmingly serious about it, answering questions such as an exam candidate’s search for the right answers, which are often left hanging in abeyance with a “here is!”.
Part of its fascination Dion steps parallels between the early life of the star and his, including the belief that none of them “would win a beauty contest … I know I have a physical bizarre and it is true that I did not feel I was a pretty little girl because no one ever told me I was. I always was good about myself [comfortable in my skin]But I’m realistic, “she said. “It had to be the same for Celine when she was young. There is a scene in the movie when someone made a joke that she has a strange face and not very graceful, and I think Céline must have thought about it. At first, she had all that hair, uneven teeth, a big nose. It must also have known [that she wasn’t pretty] …
“For me, for all young 18 years starting as an actor, of course, it is better to be a beauty – but this is not a beauty contest and a lot of big players are not exactly paint to oil. “She adds:” I am much in character. You can not make a film that is not himself, who does not speak of his own person, his own body. I wanted to put a bit of me in it. There was part of me also “.
Lemercier, the second of four daughters, said that, like Dion, she grew up in a large family. “My two grandmothers had nine children each, so it was not unusual to have 150 people at the table for family gatherings. I was two when I remember me laugh my family and I remember the feeling of joy that resulted.
At 18, she left school, she hates, and comes to Paris with 1,000 francs (about £ 100) that his father gave him. She has held a series of temporary jobs, including perfume counter of the department store Galeries Lafayette, which provided him with material for stand-up shows. His break came when he was offered a role in the comedy television series Palace.
Dion is not the first real person Lemercier fictionalized life. The 2005 comedy Palais Royal !, which she also directed, was very loosely based on the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.
“Although it was mostly shot in England with English money, it was never released in the UK. It was years before The Crown and at the time, few people made the connection with Diana in France because people knew very little of his life. But it was clear to me. “
We quickly establish that privacy is Lemercier off limits. She never married, has no children, but he is “not alone”; that is as far as I can make out of it. Later she says briefly alluded to a fiance, but will not give a name. She loves to cook, has visited Japan 26 times, made “a little sewing” and says she likes reading, but does not have time. “I still have so many irons in the fire. This has been a while since I read a book and I’m sad about that. »
While she is reluctant to talk about it, Lemercier seems to have been able to use Aline to exorcise some personal ghosts. Remarks thrown in interviews suggest that the film has allowed him to be “the child I’ve ever been” and could explain that she wanted to play Dion all ages. But perhaps the most poignant signal – and the difference between reality and fiction – is the mother-daughter relationship. Dion is close to his mother, embodied in Aline fiery character anxious to protect her child by the Canadian actress Danielle Fichaud.
Lemercier does not maintain a close relationship with his mother and said with a nonchalance that seems forced his parents are “not very interested” in his career. “My mother does not watch television and do not even know that I had won a Molière. I think that a friend told him the next day. She is not ashamed, but that does not interest him. It is not at all a mother hen as Celine’s mother; quite the contrary, “she said.
“I would have liked her to be otherwise, but she was, how to say, less present. But I am very close to my sisters and we have a certain solidarity between us to compensate for the absence of our mother.
The highlight of Lemercier, for which she is best known in France, is the one woman show. “I like being the center of attention. I know you’re not supposed to do and when you’re young and you present the elections as representative of the class, they always tell you not to vote for yourself. But why not? I was raised with the idea that we should not draw attention to itself, it must be discreet, not to be too flashy, not too much makeup. I was 10 when I signed a note to my mother promising never to wear makeup, and today I can spend two hours doing my hair and makeup before going on stage.
She is currently on stage in Paris in a comedy of three people who will continue until the end of May, but welcomes the release of Aline in the US, dismissing the snobbery that exists in the French culture in America. “Of course Hollywood interested. I’m not an intellectual. Not at all. It is therefore good news the movie comes out in the States, “she said. “I love American movies and I want to be a Hollywood star. It would be nice to live in a big house and have my own milliner life in a small house next. If I were rich I would have someone do all my dresses and it would be my luxury – better than a private jet or private cook or personal “.