Kylie Minogue is back on the big screen

Kylie Minogue’s re­turn to cin­ema shows the pop diva in an in­trigu­ing new light, writes Matt Mueller MINOGUE AD­MITS SHE WAS BAFFLED BY THE SCRIPT ON A FIRST READ­ING

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents -

the or­gan­is­ers of this year’s Cannes film festival had de­cided to stage an im­promptu con­cert draw­ing together the mu­si­cal VIPs who turned up on cin­ema’s hal­lowed turf to plug their films, what a strange gig that would have made: Pete Do­herty, Ronan Keat­ing, Kanye West . . . and Kylie Minogue, who trumped them all, cin­e­mat­i­cally speak­ing, by co-star­ring in the cra­zi­est com­pe­ti­tion en­try, a film so fever­dream-de­mented that its direc­tor, Leos Carax, seemed per­plexed (or not fussed) when it came to shed­ding light on its themes.

As his non­com­mit­tal re­sponses at the of­fi­cial press con­fer­ence were all he said pub­licly dur­ing the festival, peo­ple who saw Holy Mo­tors have been com­ing up with their own in­ter­pre­ta­tions of what on earth it’s about. The gen­eral con­sen­sus? That this berserk tale of an ac­tor (his reg­u­lar col­lab­o­ra­tor Denis La­vant) be­ing fer­ried across Paris in a white stretch limo that talks is a love let­ter to cin­ema, writ­ten in hal­lu­ci­na­tory but po­etic hi­ero­glyphs. Each of the guises La­vant ap­pears in, from Gypsy beg­gar to fairy­tale troll, rep­re­sents a film genre — file Minogue’s ap­pear­ance un­der ‘‘ mu­si­cals’’.

She fea­tures in the most poignant se­quence, as she and La­vant cir­cle each other in an empty depart­ment store while chew­ing over a tragedy from their past that still haunts them both. Words aren’t enough, how­ever, so Minogue, in a trench coat and short blonde wig, also belts out a ten­der bal­lad. ‘‘ It’s such a hu­man mo­ment that we can re­late to about past love, past ex­pe­ri­ence, tragedy. It was mov­ing to per­form, and the song helps tell the story so well,’’ says Minogue, a Fran­cophile who couldn’t quite be­lieve she was in Cannes, cham­pi­oning her role in a cult film­maker’s cause cele­bre.

She should be so lucky. ‘‘ I’ll be 44 in a few days — I’m doomed!’’ she chirruped at one point, but in truth her blend of good for­tune, for­ti­tude and an au­di­ence-friendly dis­po­si­tion has kept her at the top of the pop-cul­ture heap for decades. First she was the golden girl of teatime soaps, then the eter­nal pop sprite (68 mil­lion records sold, and count­ing). Even her high-pro­file bat­tle with breast cancer comes with a pos­i­tive spin: mam­mo­grams rock­eted by 40 per cent in Aus­tralia as a re­sult of the pub­lic­ity.

She’s the pic­ture of rude health when she makes a perky en­trance on to a sun-dap­pled ter­race in the gar­dens of an apart­ment — things are sag­ging’’), although her fa­mous diminu­tive­ness is not ex­ag­ger­ated. Kylie’s bio pegs her gen­er­ously at 157cm, but she’s prob­a­bly scrap­ing 164.5cm thanks to a pre­car­i­ous pair of strappy heels. Plat­forms aside, she is un­ex­pect­edly unadorned for a global phe­nom­e­non swan­ning around the planet’s most glam­orous back­drop: blue capri slacks, a black cro­cheted top, no jew­ellery and un­fussy make-up. She must be sav­ing it for later, when she’ll turn up on the red car­pet in a blind­ing gold-se­quins gown and sup­ple­men­tary bling.

So how on God’s green earth did Aus­tralia’s sprightli­est pop star and France’s most reclu­sive film­maker — a direc­tor so scarred by his ex­pe­ri­ences on his 1991 film with La­vant and Juli­ette Binoche, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, he has com­pleted only two full-length fea­tures since (1999’s Pola X and Holy Mo­tors) — ever come to cross paths, let alone make the de­ci­sion to col­lab­o­rate? It was a mu­tual friend, direc­tor Claire Denis, who sug­gested to Carax that he should meet Minogue, to talk about a project that didn’t pan out. In­stead, he di­verted the singer-ac­tress (who lived in France for a while and once dated French ac­tor Olivier Martinez) into Holy Mo­tors. ‘‘ It was a beau­ti­ful curve­ball,’’ Minogue says in an Aussie ac­cent soft­ened by years spent away from her home coun­try. ‘‘ It was un­ex­pected, and it was timely. Oth­er­wise, the tread­mill just keeps go­ing — al­bum-tour, al­bum-tour, al­bum-tour . . . This was just sooo dif­fer­ent.’’

That’s an un­der­state­ment. Minogue ad­mits she was baffled by the script on a first read­ing and un­sure which role he wanted her for (although we can safely as­sume she knew it wasn’t the sex-fiend con­tor­tion­ist who crops up in the most bizarre seg­ment).

Carax had scant knowl­edge of Kylie’s hit­fac­tory past beyond her 1995 duet with Nick Cave, Where the Wild Roses Grow, but he proved a quick learner: in one of the film’s of My Head blares out of the open win­dow.

Minogue says she ‘‘ gave my­self over com­pletely to Leos’’ and, re­lieved to take a break from the busi­ness of ‘‘ be­ing Kylie ’’, banned her vast en­tourage from the set. ‘‘ It was al­most un­in­vent­ing my­self.’’ On the same score, she has squeezed in a cameo in the up­com­ing Jack & Diane, a hor­ror-ro­mance about les­bian were­wolves in New York. ‘‘ I rein­vent my­self all the time for my usual job. This was about get­ting rid of all that stuff.’’

Pre­sum­ably, though, she could have cho­sen to re­turn to the big screen in some­thing splashier or more main­stream. Why didn’t she? ‘‘ Be­cause the other films I’ve done were just dis­as­trous,’’ she coun­ters, not cracking a smile — and not get­ting any ar­gu­ment back.

Kylie’s own flesh and blood would have dif­fi­culty de­fend­ing the de­tri­tus on her CV, much of it an in­sult to bar­gain bins ev­ery­where. You might make a case for her postNeigh­bours show­case The Delin­quents, but Street Fighter, one of the more abysmal JeanClaude Van Damme ve­hi­cles, and the Razz­iewin­ning Pauly Shore com­edy Bio-Dome are un­par­don­able. When her ab­sinthe fairy in Moulin Rouge! is the only bright spot in the 13-year span fol­low­ing Neigh­bours, you can’t blame her for stick­ing to the task of man­u­fac­tur­ing candy-floss dance hits and sex­u­ally provoca­tive videos. Bar guest spots on the tele­vi­sion se­ries Kath & Kim and Doc­tor Who, Minogue avoided act­ing for more than a decade un­til Carax called.

‘‘ Holy Mo­tors was a way for me to test the wa­ters, and now I feel like, ‘ OK, this is great.’ Be­cause I feel at home on a film or a TV set. That’s where I started and, though I can’t re­mem­ber too much about be­ing 11 and mak­ing The Sul­li­vans — where the sets wob­ble and it’s not any­thing mar­vel­lous — it’s part of my psy­che.’’

The two strong­est mem­o­ries Minogue has of when she was about to col­lect her first dole cheque, and ‘‘ get­ting into my lit­tle Dat­sun, my first car, and fang­ing it to Chan­nel 10, try­ing to learn my lines on the way’’. She mimes hold­ing the steer­ing wheel while flip­ping script pages on the pas­sen­ger’s seat. ‘‘ And get­ting there, spit­ting out the lines and mov­ing on to the next scene. It was all very fast.’’

Minogue is cel­e­brat­ing 25 years in the mu­sic busi­ness this year and is re­leas­ing a new video on the 25th of each month, for the whole year, to mark the oc­ca­sion. Af­ter we spoke she ser­e­naded the Queen at the ju­bilee con­cert at Buck­ing­ham Palace, and will head­line Proms in the Park in Lon­don in Septem­ber. Re­cently, she has been trawl­ing through old pho­tos and footage to in­clude in her great­est-hits al­bum, out to­mor­row, and it has brought long­dor­mant feel­ings to the surface. ‘‘ I see im­ages from when I did my first al­bum and I nearly cry. I just go, ‘ Oh my god, you’re such a baby!’ It’s a whole lot of mixed emo­tions for me.’’

Minogue also gets emo­tional re­flect­ing on that ‘‘ dark and gloomy time’’ when she en­dured surgery and chemo­ther­apy to sur­vive cancer. Her eyes glis­ten in the late-af­ter­noon sun; her voice be­gins to break ever so slightly. ‘‘ It was just all gloom — but ev­ery mys­te­ri­ous per­son in th­ese apart­ments around us has a story like mine, and we’re here in Cannes and the sun’s shin­ing . . .’’

In­deed we are, and later that day she gets to walk up Cannes’ famed red car­pet for Holy Mo­tors’s of­fi­cial screen­ing, then bask in the sus­tained bar­rage of whoops and cheers that adds to the grow­ing buzz among the clus­tered cineastes about Carax’s come­back, and that it may just pip Michael Haneke’s heav­ily favoured Amour for the Palme d’Or.

In the end, the jury passes over it, but noth­ing can de­tract from the fact Kylie has made a be­lated act­ing come­back in the most en­ter­tain­ingly sub­ver­sive and orig­i­nal film to emerge from this year’s festival. As it drives off to a brighter fu­ture, so does Minogue.

The age­less pop idol who has ex­erted such fierce con­trol over her ca­reer now calls her­self ‘‘ a dis­ci­ple’’ of the ran­dom prophet Carax and in­sists we ain’t seen noth­ing yet. ‘‘ There is a whole other side to me that is un­tapped,’’ she trills. ‘‘ I know it’s there.’’ She breaks into a mis­chievous smile. ‘‘ I’m not just a shiny, happy per­son — and maybe the time is here for me to start feed­ing my other side a bit more.’’

The Sun­day Times

Kylie Minogue

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