Madonna/Venice Film Festival
Madonna, the ever-youthful Material Girl and "Queen of Reinvention" has done it again. This time, by reinventing herself as a credible director through the retelling of one of the most compelling love stories of the 20th Century.
W.E. is a classic tale of boy meets girl, except this time, the boy was King Edward VIII and the girl was twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Throughout the course of their scandalous affair, Wallis became an object of hatred, vilified by the British press and its people. Sound familiar?
In an effort to rehabilitate the Duchess of Windsor, as she became known after marrying Edward, Madonna’s portrayal of their much-publicised relationship has transformed Mrs. Simpson from villain to heroine. No wonder Madonna, casually criticised throughout her career, sees parallels. It's doubtless she's thrilled with the recent release of secret letters from Wallis to her ex husband, Ernest, admitting that she wanted to give up her royal romance and return to obscurity. The letters paint her in a much more favourable light than hitherto.
For her directorial debut Madonna, who was mobbed by journalists at the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, takes the perspective of seeing a familiar love affair played out through the eyes of Wally Winthrop, an American singer obsessed with Wallis Simpson.
For once, those wishing to feast on another Madonna movie turkey will be disappointed. There is no doubt that W.E. has more in common with a glossy fashion commercial than The King’s Speech, but it is a refreshing portrayal of the couple.
Wallis Simpson (right) was cruelly criticised by the public and reviled in the history books simply for falling in love with the wrong man. Despite her repeated requests to the contrary, King Edward VIII gave up his throne, his country, his empire and his family for her. Their marriage cost the King his crown but it cost Wallis her freedom; she later stated, "He used me to escape his prison, only to incarcerate me in my own".
Madonna says that she was able to identify with the woman who plunged Britain into a constitutional crisis. For both their motives and their behaviour has been, in their eyes, misunderstood and caricatured.
Madonna’s failure as an actress is that she has only ever played herself, never able to get inside the skin of the character she was supposed to represent. Now that she has taken charge behind the lens, the singer is doing what she does so well, having everyone dance to her tune.