Céline: Through The Eyes Of The World
- Directed by Stephane Laporte
- Starring Céline Dion
- Classification: G
In one captivating moment in this concert-movie-documentary-travelogue-love-letter about Céline Dion's 2008-09 Taking Chances tour, the sheer improbability of staging a global, year-long, choreographed, multi-media concert tour comes clear.
At the stop in Manchester, England, someone comes back to see the big-voiced superstar, who is sitting at a makeup table in her bathrobe, and asks if she's ready for her "10-minute rehearsal." The two of them then run through, in shorthand and rapidly, amusingly sung nonsense syllables, the entire set list of the show, with stops at places to note changes for that night: No, the platform won't revolve there, you'll have to spin yourself around; no, the girls who normally do a prancing-pony dance around you won't be here, so you'll have to improvise. Okay, so then, go down the illuminated squares to the left corner of the stage, drop to your knees, get up, go to the right corner of the stage, point in the air. ...
If Dion's been doing all this since she was a teenager, it's no wonder she hasn't had space to cultivate the interests and personality that would make her seem like a more fully actualized adult. This is one of the things about her that divides people - like Michael Jackson and many other prodigies, she's the trained porpoise who can perform feats of miraculous virtuosity but pays the price of existential tunnel vision.
The one spot in this two-hour spectacle where Dion clearly makes a mistake - at a homecoming show in Montreal, she slips in one of her patented high-heeled stomps and falls to the hard surface of the stage - only reminds how remarkable it is that she doesn't make more. (And that, of course, is why it is in the film.)
When her voice begins to fail - though only offstage - partway through the tour, she talks to her doctor about the fact that rehearsals for this extremely aerobic, dehydrating, demanding show began immediately after her years-long run at a theatre in Las Vegas. She is constantly caring for her young son René Charles and her mother, both of whom tour with her the entire year, as does her much-older, affable-but-gruff, husband-manager Rene Angelil. She signs hundreds of autographs every day, shares hugs and photos with handicapped fans and lavishes affection on her touring dancers and crew, all amid an aggressive security detail.
The film mostly conceals whatever pique and spoiled fits result, but it's probably accurate in its portrayal of her general good humour. Detractors would be surprised at how genuinely funny she can be, dancing around Angelil during a sound check, improvising a goof on Blue Suede Shoes and shaking her legs like some ungodly cross between Elvis, Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Bojangles.
Other times you wonder what her team was thinking: Does anyone really need to see Dion visit the crematorium of a former concentration camp? When it's followed by an over-the-top duet with an opera tenor on some pious, Disneyfied song, one is tempted to paraphrase philosopher Theodor Adorno and say there can be no power ballads after Auschwitz.
Her sentimentality over the tragedies she witnesses on her travels is also cheapened by the scene where she is in near hysterics on the phone explaining that she's been up, crying, for hours because the nanny wasn't able to find one of her son's stuffed animals in his luggage.
Fans will be excited by the intimate closeness this picture provides, off-stage and on. More neutral observers will be exhausted halfway through its two hours, because there is no ongoing tension or conflict to drive the narrative. It begins and ends with around-the-world montages, and that's its inner structure - a montage, melting from scene to scene, from country to country, differences reduced to passing incident and local colour.
But after all, when it comes to Dion, there really aren't many neutral observers.