Dir: Denys Arcand. Canada. 2000. 102 mins.
Prod cos: Alliance Atlantis, Serendipity Point. Co-prods: Cinemaginaire, Cine-b. Int'l Sales: Alliance Atlantis (001 310 899 8000). Prods: Denise Robert, Robert Lantos. Scr: Arcand, J. Jacob Potashnik. DoP: Guy Dufaux. Prod des: Zoe Sakellaropoulo. Ed: Isabelle Dedieu. Main cast: Jessica Pare, Dan Aykroyd, Charles Berling, Robert Lepage, Thomas Gibson, Frank Langella.
A long-time regular at Cannes, Arcand was relegated this year to the Closing Night gala, a niche increasingly reserved for duds, and Stardom mostly lives up to festival tradition. Some of the director's previous work, such as Jesus Of Montreal, has scored in the subtitled market, but he has never successfully navigated the transition to English-language filming (his only previous English-language feature, Love And Human Remains, was made six years ago). Critical response for Stardom is unlikely to guarantee it much of a theatrical career, but it might - ironically, given its mordant view of television - find its more natural habitat on the small screen.
While Famous, a more modest and grittier meditation on the same theme, was made by actors with direct experience of the snakes and ladders of the celebrity game, Stardom's main character is a model; its too-easy target is the fashion world and its obsession with image over achievement. The early scenes in particular could do with a few more passes to refine some often thumpingly obvious satire.
When Tina (Pare), a small-town Ontario hockey player, is spotted by an agency, her meteoric rise-and-fall career leaves a stream of romantic casualties in her wake: a sleazy French photographer (Berling), a middle-aged restaurateur (Aykroyd) and a Canadian diplomat (Langella).
Tina is forever in the spotlight, whether it be the glare of television cameras or the voyeuristic lens of a documentary film-maker (Lepage) shooting an expose about her. Stardom itself never probes far below its characters' glossy surface and she remains a gorgeous but bland cipher. Still, after a rocky start, the film picks up steam in the latter stretches with a spot-on parody of a trendy French intellectual chat show which had the Cannes press audience in stitches and a scene in which Langella wigs out at the United Nations, globally insulting all the other delegates.