Aline: How Valérie Lemercier became “Celine Dion”

Aline is finally going to the cinema.

Postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Aline arrives this week in theaters. First had met the entire film crew of Valerie Lemercier for n ° 512 (November 2020 with David Fincher on the cover).

Four years after the disappointment Marie-Francine, Valérie Lemercier is making a comeback with Aline, her disguised biopic of Celine Dion. First takes you behind the scenes of the most expensive French film of the year, in the company of those who made it.
By Christophe Narbonne.

Tell me Celine, Aline Dieu, Aline … Valérie Lemercier fumbled a lot before deciding the title of her new film, a biopic of Celine Dion. Finally, biopic, yes but no. Rather “A film with the perfume of Celine Dion” : Aline is the projection of the dream life of a planetary star filled with honors, the public and her love story with her husband-pygmalion – René Angélil, renamed here Guy-Claude. No irony behind it all. This film-doudou (written without the assistance of the Quebec singer whose entourage has however tacitly validated the content) logically fits into the singular enchanted universe of Valérie Lemercier, populated by girls who do not want to grow up and who do not see in mankind that kindness and benevolence.

The actress-writer-director wore it for almost a year. “The maturing and writing time was quite long”, confirms Édouard Weil, his producer since Royal Palace! “After attending Celine Dion’s concert in Bercy together in July 2017, we agreed that we had to make a film that was both intimate and spectacular. The fervor and love of the public combined with the monumental side of the show had convinced us. We had to think big. ” Think big. In accounting terms, this means 23.5 million euros. A considerable budget for a film without high-sounding names – apart from that of Lemercier – but whose ambition is to visually translate the excess that surrounds Celine Dion, this artist capable of performing more than a thousand times, for sixteen years, at Caesars Palace of Las Vegas, in front of 4,000 people on average! Aline was expensive, but for good reason: the money is on the screen and not elsewhere. A traveling shoot (France, Quebec, Spain), around sixty sets (natural and in the studio in Bry-sur-Marne, the three sets of which were required), more than 150 costumes (created or found), tons of accessories , a lot of visual effects, make-up… Not to mention the rights of the songs.

TF1 and Gaumont, financial partners of Rectangle Productions, Édouard Weil’s company, have never trembled at the scale of the challenge. Even when Jérôme Commandeur, initially planned to play Guy-Claude, was excluded from the film in favor of Quebecer Sylvain Marcel, unknown in France. “The more the project progressed, the more it became evident that the film had to have a strong Quebec identity, explains Édouard Weil. TF1 and Gaumont have understood this well. ” Valérie Lemercier modulates a little. “They still ticked a bit before agreeing to our point of view. With Jérôme and me, the film would have turned into a sketch. Not only for matters of accent, but also of physics. I am tall and broad shouldered, I needed an imposing partner. In a photo I took with Jérôme for Gala magazine around the same time, he was snuggling up against my shoulder as if I were his mom! It did not work. He understood it well. ” The choice of a predominantly local cast and to shoot partially in the Belle Province will convince Quebec investors to participate in the adventure up to 10% of the budget.

With Aline, Valérie Lemercier tries something new: the fan biopic [critique]

Lemercier on all fronts

To carry out her project, Valérie Lemercier relies on the technical team of Marie-Francine, notably on the director of photography Laurent Dailland, the head decorator Emmanuelle Duplay, the costume designer Catherine Leterrier and the head makeup artist Marie Lastennet. “Working with people you trust can go faster,” she says. When you decide to change your sweater five minutes before a take, it shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem. Strangely, people who are bottled up are more flexible than young people. For Catherine Leterrier, who worked with Michael Haneke, nothing is complicated. It does not have a price. ” Valérie Lemercier, on her side, knows what she wants. “I asked that the hovel, the small family house of the Dieu family, be built in a studio to adapt it to the requirements of the scenario. It was obvious that we would not find a building where I could go out the window with my enormous wedding dress; nor a staircase that I could descend in the same outfit. Everything was thought out according to the staging. »« On our first meeting, Valérie arrived with lots of ideas, clutches Emmanuelle Duplay. She had drawn sketches and had already ordered decorative items on the internet… For the hovel, we sent in containers for furniture and accessories found in Canada; we reproduced identically a lino that we had also spotted there. Valérie is as interested in the general as well as the particular visual identity of her films and is keen on artisanal effects “à la Méliès”. In the scenes where she plays Aline as a child, she evolves in settings and perspectives that overwhelm her a little. At one point, she’s sitting in a chair that’s 1.8 times the size of the average! “

For the many costumes in the film, Catherine Leterrier opened a workshop where her collaborators worked hard for three months. “Each costume was designed with the underside to match, as in haute couture, she explains. As it is cinema, you have to take into account the movements of the characters. To play Aline petite, Valérie wears narrow chasubles sewn in a little thick fabric to hinder her gestures just enough. She does indeed know what she wants, but she is not against the unexpected. In preparation, we had done tests to see what a tweaked side gave to certain clothes that Aline’s mother would have sewn awkwardly. In particular, we had created a small felt vest, a material used for disguises. When Valérie saw it, she kept it for the scene where Aline sings as a child in front of her mother. ” Marie Lastennet also underlines the challenge represented by the film. “Make-up is not just powder or makeup. We put eyelashes or not, we possibly create prostheses, we modify, as here, the teeth and ears. Aline, it was two to three hours of makeup a day, just for Valérie who has brilliant intuitions. So that the Gods all have a family resemblance, she asked that a mold be made of her nose to extract prostheses from which some of her partners were decked out!

Valérie Lemercier: “Aline is a vision both faithful and fantasized of Celine Dion”

The voice of success

After fifteen weeks of filming, from mid-March to the end of June 2019, comes the time for postproduction. The concert scenes, shot against green backgrounds, are notably finalized by the visual effects specialists who retouch other shots, here and there – for example, to accentuate the rejuvenation of Valérie Lemercier.

At the beginning of 2020 the casting of the one who will vocally dub the actress begins. Fifty singers are auditioned. “I was approached via a mutual friend by the casting director, Bruno Berberes, who asked me to send him an essay on two songs: Pour que tu m’aime encore and My heart will go on, recalls Victoria Sio. No longer singing in this kind of tessitura, I asked him why. He told me to trust him – I knew after he knew my Celine Dion impersonations on stage. “ Revealed in 2005 by the musical The sun King, then by season 2 of The Voice, in 2013, Victoria Sio is no longer a beginner. The stage fright won her all the same. Stage fright reinforced by waiting. “After my first step, the production ofAline reminded me and explained the project. I did two more tests, then containment occurred. No more news for two months… In mid-May, Pascal Mayer, the film’s musical supervisor, contacted me again to tell me that I had been chosen! I had two weeks to learn about fifteen Celine Dion songs, with the accent and the intonations. I immediately went to see my phoniatrist to find out if my vocal cords could hold! (Laughs.) From early June to mid-July, it was nonstop studio. I was surrounded by Pascal Mayer, Laurent Marimbert and Rémy Galichet, the musical directors, Guilain Ranouil, the sound engineer, and, of course, Valérie. Before each song, she coached me like an actress by telling me what the title said. More than a performance, she was looking for an extra soul. But took me back if I brought a little personal vibe! She has a great ear. “

The production has obtained the rights to re-sing about fifteen songs, except The Power of Love to the despair of Valérie Lemercier. “The original singer and songwriter didn’t want to be taken over, the latter is sorry … This is the only hitch we have encountered. Raphaël Hamburger, Michel Berger’s son, for his part requested a listening right for Ziggy. He liked our version. “ In total, the musical rights will not have cost ” than “ 1.3 million euros, which represents a little more than 5% of the budget. At the request of Valérie Lemercier, Victoria Sio made some vocal adjustments in September, following the return of the first spectators: it is indeed a question of not disappointing the fanbase to which the director is attached. Reassured on this point by the previews in the provinces, Valérie Lemercier and Édouard Weil are now aware of the challenges of an exit in the midst of a health crisis. “I hope that the exhibitors play the game by keeping the film a little longer,” concludes the producer. I’m confident. We have returned to a market of offers; people will really see what they want to see. “ Aline will it be the hit of the fall?

The trailer forAline :

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