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Marilyn Monroe’s death is a worldwide obsession – but she was also a remarkable actress

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Marilyn monroe looks saddest in slow motion. More and more we tend to be the only way we see them. Perhaps it’s because it’s so much easier to search her face for melancholy when archival footage is playing at a snail’s pace, whether she’s walking down a street or posing for photographers. Her smile becomes steely or freezes in hidden torment. Every look down makes her appear lost for a moment. If Monroe were an Instagram filter today, it would be called “beautiful depressive.”

Nowhere is this picture clearer than on Netflix The Marilyn Monroe Mystery: The Unheard Tapes, which is available to stream starting today (April 27). The film sheds light on Hollywood’s enduring icon through the lens of a true crime documentary, starring author Anthony Sommers – who wrote the best-selling biography of Monroe goddess – Examination of previously unpublished claims regarding their final hours. Nothing is confirmed, making the whole thing a bit aimless, but there are references to Monroe’s affairs with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert – which may have put her in deadly government crosshairs – as well as claims that she was under investigation and surveillance by the FBI because of their leftist politics. Interview tapes from a 1992 inquest into Monroe’s apparent suicide are also heard for the first time, with friends and associates sharing — or in some cases purposely not sharing — what they knew about her death.

Monroe died 60 years ago this August, which explains the wealth of material released about her this year. This includes the heavily delayed biopic Blond, starring Ana de Armas, who has been described as unconventional in his approach and so provocative that he earned an adults-only NC-17 certificate in the United States. A French documentary is also slated for release this June, one that boasts of having “finally” identified Monroe’s biological father.

Our cultural fascination with Monroe bears no explanation. After all, she is the prototype of all sorts of modern media phenomena, of the mystery and appeal of the “dead blonde” in popular entertainment (cf twin peaks or one of the televisions formed in his image) to hyper-fixation with young women struggling in the limelight. She also feels a certain obligation to the “Missing White Woman Syndrome”, a form of discrimination in which missing persons or victims of crime receive comparatively greater coverage if they are young, white, female and pretty. Monroe probably wasn’t the first example of any of the above, but she is their collective blueprint, someone whose talent and beauty are so often linked to their private turmoil.

Watch after The Secret of Marilyn Monroe, but I felt gross. It’s just the latest in a long, long line of documentaries, feature films, and books about Monroe’s life and career, and is no more or less voyeuristic than any of the others. Rather, it is the format that is irritating. The document is part of a particular strand of modern storytelling of which Netflix is ​​king, where horrific deaths are dissected and speculated as if they were soap opera stories. Visually, there is the requisite archival footage of gloomy city streets and ominous tape recorders playing incriminating audio. Dramatic recreations and photographs of corpses. The mentioned archive footage in slow motion. There is little difference, narratively or visually, between the Monroe series, Our father and The John Wayne Gacy Tapesthe latter programs are also about dark historical crime, and both also launch on Netflix in the last seven days.

However, there are revelations. Elements of Monroe’s personal life that came to light in the new film were unknown to me. For example, that she entertained incestuous revenge fantasies about the biological father, whom she never knew. Or that much of her life seemed to be an endless parade of sexual abuse, exploitation, and bullying at the hands of the men in whom she placed so much romantic trust. Her struggles to conceive a child and the destructive tendencies that seemed to be awakening in her are discussed in passing. But like so many Netflix true-crime series, the film’s central character becomes little more than a body, one that we’re meant to get intimate and gynecologically acquainted with; a prop for thought. You feel a bit like a peeping-on at an autopsy.

The New York newspaper Daily News reports on Monroe’s death in August 1962

(Snap/Shutterstock)

Of course, it’s a much greater tragedy when these true crime movies revolve around dead people who aren’t famous, like the often-forgotten victims of Ted Bundy or Ed Gein. The focus there is more on their killers, the people they murdered are only defined by their goals. Similarly, however, it has become more difficult to find modern work celebrating Monroe outside of her death, talent, or otherworldly aura as a movie star. A lazy read of her appeal will always be that she was more image than substance — a Hollywood bombshell loved just for her looks, whose visage now graces t-shirts and Etsy wall art. This read lacks the raw skill she had as an actress: her insane cunning Some like it hotthe dangerous attraction she exerted on the underrated noir Niagaraor the piercing solitude of her work in The outsiderher last movie.

For the sake of fairness The Secret of Marilyn Monroe, we get clips from many of her most famous roles as well as testimonials that speak of her artistic genius and the work she put into her performances. “Every night she went to her [acting] coach”, she Gentlemen prefer blondes says co-star and friend Jane Russell at one point – in an audio recording dubbed by another actor. “She wanted to be good. And when the camera came on, it was like a whole electric light went on. She just came to life.”

But those moments feel present through genre necessity, a bit of context being added early on before the conspiracies begin. As of this writing, none of Monroe’s actual films are available to stream on Netflix UK The Secret of Marilyn Monroe possibly the first – and perhaps only – stop for audiences eager to discover them. Too bad. And what a missed opportunity.

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes is streaming now on Netflix

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/marilyn-monroe-death-netflix-documentary-b2066563.html Marilyn Monroe’s death is a worldwide obsession – but she was also a remarkable actress

JOE HERNANDEZ

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