out of Five
Running time: 115
Opens London Film Festival: 20th October
Compelling French drama about the nature of obsessive fan-dom, with strong central performances by both Isild LeBesco and Emmanuelle Seigner.
French writer-director Emmanuelle Bercot’s drama, Backstage, takes a timely look at the nature of obsessive fan-dom, from both sides of the star/fan divide. It also takes the occasional sideswipe at reality TV for good measure.
Rising star Isild LeBesco (from Roberto Succo) plays Lucie, an emotionally vulnerable teenager who is obsessed with ethereal pop star Lauren Waks (Emmanuelle Seigner, aka Mrs Roman Polanski). When Lucie’s well-meaning mother secretly arranges for Lauren to sing to Lucie in her own living room as part of a surprise Stars In Your Home type reality show, Lucie freaks out and hides in her bedroom.
Attempting to persuade her to come out, Lauren tells Lucie that she can come and see her whenever she wants, but she isn’t prepared for Lucie to follow her to Paris and camp out outside her hotel room.
Soon an obsessive and distinctly unhealthy bond develops between star and fan, as Lucie decides that she wants to make Lauren happy, no matter what it takes.
Isild LeBesco is astonishing as Lucie (a role that was specifically written for her by Bercot and co-screenwriter Jerome Tonnerre), particularly in the early scenes where she’s suddenly confronted with Lauren and brilliantly conveys Lucie’s emotional fragility. Emmanuelle Seigner is also extremely good, perfectly capturing the dual nature of Lauren’s public and private personas.
Bercot’s direction is extremely confident, skilfully balancing both stark realism and fevered melodrama to create an incredibly intense atmosphere in which you never quite know what to expect. As a result, the film is, by turns shocking, moving and surprisingly erotic in places.
Bercot uses music extremely well throughout. The eight original songs were written for Lauren and recorded by Seigner under studio conditions (they’re actually surprisingly catchy, particularly the opening number). In addition, her approach to casting is both unusual and effective – Lauren’s sympathetic bodyguard is played by a real bodyguard and Zeitoun is a well-known industry figure in France.
In short, Backstage is a compellingly intense drama with strong performances from its two leads. Recommended.