In Vox Lux, a star is reborn tale of a pop singer’s rise and re-rise, characters don’t grow into their roles, they morph into, more precisely match cut into them. The child is cut into the mother’s child, played by the same actress (Raffey Cassidy), the same, sad, plaintiff voice and mannerism providing a fateful symbolism and tragic echo. The mother, the singer, the fateful survivor of a mass tragedy when she was an adolescent, who took that pain and shock and crafted an anthem that became the adopted heartache song of a hurting nation, an anthem that shot her up through to one note climb and the eventual career rehabilitation, is matched cut into an early thirties Natalie Portman, with a harpy voice, heavy New York twang, streaks of theatrical platinum wings streaking through the hair on both sides of her head.
The voice between child, mother, and daughter is the aural link between, the past, present and future. The brush with tragedies personal, national and global provide the plot links. The optimism crushed into cynicism, into fateful resignation into grim, steadfast self determination above all else, generate all the character links.
Vox Lux, takes its voice of light, and translates it into a story about the capitalist American need to turn tragedy into a brand that can be exploited, monetized. It isn’t just another story about what a manager can get out of a singer, but what celebrity can take out of her, what the public can leach out of her, what political terrorists can use her aura, her Vox Lux to exploit and define their cause and need for tragedy.
Brady Corbet, the director, constructs the film elliptically, letting it all filter in obliquely like theatrical haze and gun smoke, allowing the symbols to pile up in a carnage of semi-allegory. The last big concert at the end, a cynical statement of cause celebre disguised in upbeat songs and choreography, shows Portman at the height of her public adoration, and her near Godhead.
All photos courtesy of Neon Pictures.