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'Grace of Monaco' serves up large helping of Cannes polemic

  • A file photo taken on April 19, 1956 shows Prince Rainier III of Monaco and US actress and princess of Monaco Grace Kelly saluting the crowd as they leave Saint Nicholas' Cathedral after their wedding ceremony in Monaco. AFP PHOTO

PARIS: Take a furious princely family, add a transatlantic row between prominent movie personalities, top with Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman and you get the opening film of the 67th Cannes Film Festival.

The biopic "Grace of Monaco" premieres on Wednesday at the start of the glitzy event, and already it is mired in controversy that threatens to cast a cloud over the very festival that allowed Grace Kelly to meet Prince Rainier III in 1955.

She wed him soon after in what the press dreamily described as the "the marriage of the century", renouncing her career as the glamorous actress every American girl wanted to emulate and taking on the official role of a princess.

But rather than illustrate her life as a whole, the film focuses on a period of high tensions between the tiny rock and France in 1962 that prompted the princess to turn down an offer by Alfred Hitchcock to return to her beloved acting.

'Totally fictional'

While these are well-documented events, the movie is not to everyone's liking -- least of all Grace's children who have furiously disavowed it.

Prince Albert II and his sisters Caroline and Stephanie insist that the film, which also features British actor Tim Roth as Prince Rainier, does not accurately portray events involving their mother.

"The trailer appears to be a farce and confirms the totally fictional nature of this film," they said last week in a statement.

"The Princely Family does not in any way wish to be associated with this film which reflects no reality and regrets that its history has been misappropriated for purely commercial purposes."

For the film's French director Olivier Dahan -- who was behind the award-winning biopic of Edith Piaf "La Vie en Rose" -- the reaction is "a little disproportionate".

He told the Le Parisien weekly magazine this month that the family had been given "several versions" of the script and had "suggested several modifications", some of which were taken into account.

Dahan acknowledged there was a slight anti-French feeling in the film, as the story happens when Prince Rainier was locked in a fiscal row with then President Charles de Gaulle, who was exasperated over French nationals taking up residence in Monaco to avoid paying taxes.

The following year, Monaco and France signed a pact ruling that all French residents in the Rock would have to pay income tax to Paris.

A transatlantic rift

As if the princely seal of disapproval was not enough, Dahan has been locked in a long-standing tussle with the film's powerful US distributor Harvey Weinstein.

Dahan and Weinstein have been at loggerheads for months over the final version of the movie -- whose release has been delayed several times -- with director and producer accusing Weinstein of trying to blackmail them into signing off on a new, breezier edit.

"Harvey Weinstein has made a very different film, where the order of scenes has changed and aspects of the script have been erased," producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam told the Le Parisien magazine.

"We want to show a real crisis situation between Grace and her husband and he wants to tell a fairytale, give Americans a lesson on Monaco and Grace Kelly."

According to entertainment weekly Variety, Weinstein is now considering dropping US distribution rights altogether if his version does not prevail in the United States.

The film has been snapped up by many countries around the world, including China where more than 3,000 cinemas are waiting for it, but Americans may still have to wait a little longer.

Nevertheless, despite all the controversy, film-makers are banking on the power of Grace Kelly to enthral more than 30 years after her death in a car accident at the age of 52.

"I can see why a film-maker would want to put Kelly back on screen, even by proxy," Jude Quillan, author of "The Comeback", a thriller that features Kelly as a character, told Britain's The Independent newspaper.

"She was gorgeous, beguilingly enigmatic, smart, resourceful, conflicted and totally timeless."

 
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Summary

Take a furious princely family, add a transatlantic row between prominent movie personalities, top with Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman and you get the opening film of the 67th Cannes Film Festival.

The biopic "Grace of Monaco" premieres on Wednesday at the start of the glitzy event, and already it is mired in controversy that threatens to cast a cloud over the very festival that allowed Grace Kelly to meet Prince Rainier III in 1955 .

While these are well-documented events, the movie is not to everyone's liking -- least of all Grace's children who have furiously disavowed it.

Dahan and Weinstein have been at loggerheads for months over the final version of the movie -- whose release has been delayed several times -- with director and producer accusing Weinstein of trying to blackmail them into signing off on a new, breezier edit.


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