Though it was picked up by the specialty distributor Strand Releasing (which has several of the artiest art films in the festival this year), the celebrity-worship drama Backstage never made it to Seattle again. It's a shame, because obsession this epic should really be seen on the big screen. (I can't say the same for Agnès Godard's cinematography, which consists of a lot of close-ups in a perpetual predawn haze.)
There's a long tradition of films that consider the erotically charged relationship between a powerful woman and her enthralled pupil, beginning with the 1931 German feature Mädchen in Uniform, but Backstage adds celebrity culture and makes the obsession mutual. Lucie (the damp-eyed Isild Le Besco) loves Lauren (Emmanuelle Seigner, fantastically remote), an egotistical pop star who's meant to resemble Blondie. Lucie's bedroom walls are plastered with Lauren's image, but when a reality TV show brings the real thing to her house, she completely freaks out.
Somehow, that dismal performance in front of the cameras persuades Lucie that she's successfully preserved the sacred potential of their relationship, and she stalks Lauren all the way back to her hotel in Paris, where plenty of other fans are camped out on a park bench. Through persistence, a conveniently timed bloody nose, and a ludicrously vulnerable countenance, Lucie wheedles her way into Lauren's hotel room and insinuates herself into her life. Lauren makes Lucie her gofer, and then her useless pet. Lucie, meanwhile, is stoic in her ecstasy. Then she decides it's a good idea to sleep with Lauren's ex.
There's no character development in Backstage. The manager paces, the assistant sucks on cigarettes, the ex-boyfriend stands around looking handsome. But against this backdrop of shallow personalities and straightforward business concerns, Lucie and Lauren's fucked-up theatrics appear three-dimensional and vivid. Backstage delivers authentic emotions in a total vacuum. That's not so unusual, of course, but most movies have the backhanded courtesy to pretend otherwise.