Sun. Jul 14th, 2024
alert-–-kathryn-flett’s-my-tv-week:-stricken-celine’s-agony…-in-close-upAlert – KATHRYN FLETT’S My TV week: Stricken Celine’s agony… in close-up

I AM CELINE DION

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO 

Rating:

Heads-up: this isn’t a review aimed at the legions of devoted Celine Dion fans who probably watched this documentary the moment it landed on Amazon Prime Video. 

No, this is a review for anybody who might scroll past the phrase ‘Celine Dion documentary’ with an ‘OK, whatever’ or a ‘Meh’ or, at best, a lukewarm ‘Maybe…’. So, it’s a review for people like me.

First things first: the 56-year-old French-Canadian ‘Queen of Power Ballads’ has shifted 250 million records, had the highest-grossing Las Vegas residency in history, was the world’s top-selling artist of the 1990s, has won five Grammys and been awarded the French Legion d’Honneur… etc, etc.

Celine Dion, 56, was the world's top-selling artist in the 1990s and has won five Grammys

Celine Dion, 56, was the world’s top-selling artist in the 1990s and has won five Grammys 

Dion (pictured in 2018) has sold 250 million records and had the highest-grossing Las Vegas residency in history

Dion (pictured in 2018) has sold 250 million records and had the highest-grossing Las Vegas residency in history 

Yet, despite knowing all this, I had barely any sense of Dion as a human being. To me she was a cipher; a multi­-millionaire diva wafting (presumably) between (maybe) LA, Vegas and Somewhere-In-Quebec on a lily-scented private jet accompanied by kittens (or was that Mariah Carey?). 

Anyway, if somebody asked me to sum up Dion, prior to watching this film, then I’d have said, ‘Extraordinary pipes, cheesy songs, model-slim, married her (much older) manager, has a strange illness…’

At the outset there’s a written warning: ‘The film contains powerful scenes of medical trauma.’ I thought this might be over-egging things – normal these days – but it isn’t. 

The ‘strange illness’ (specifically, rare Stiff Person Syndrome) reveals Dion as a real, three-­dimensional person, leading a life as extraordinary in its extreme ‘otherness’ as the one she’d led previously.

Career archive combined with intimate new footage (at her diva-glamorous home, with her teenage twin sons – she was widowed in 2016 and has an adult son, too) highlights the horror-weirdness of Dion’s terrible condition. 

In unflinching close-up, director Irene Taylor pulls off quite a feat; her relationship with the star is sufficiently trusting on both sides for Taylor to be able to film when most other people – never mind global megastars – would have sent them packing. 

While Dion’s bravery and lack of vanity are both sobering and unexpected; the last 15 minutes – during which she has a seizure on camera – are a difficult watch.

Critic Kathryn Flett gave 'I Am Celine Dion' five stars

Critic Kathryn Flett gave ‘I Am Celine Dion’ five stars

Yet, from the wall of shoes to the warehouse containing everything from tour costumes to her sons’ old toddler-era scribbles via the sight of Dion vacuuming, there’s enough day-to-day diva to satisfy the cheapest through-the-celebrity-keyhole lifestyle voyeur. 

The result is by turns immersive, compelling, moving and leaves you wanting (the apparently generous, kind-hearted) Dion to get her life back 100 per cent, asap.

‘My voice is the conductor of my life… and I was OK with that because I was having a great time. When your voice brings you joy you’re the best of yourself,’ she explains. 

And whether or not you thought you knew – or cared about – Celine Dion, after watching this exceptionally powerful film you certainly will.

Elite bagpiping sucked me in 

BATTLE OF THE BAGPIPES

WEDNESDAYS, SKY ARTS

Rating:

On the subject of pipes (sorry, couldn’t resist; see Celine Dion above), Bill Paterson narrates (very seriously) Sky’s three-parter following key players in the run-up to the hotly contested World Pipe Band Championships.

I should probably come clean: I can stomach a single bagpiper, but to me a band’s-worth often sounds (in my ignorance) like a swarm of angry wasps. Which doesn’t make me best-placed to judge the music on its merits. So, just as well I’m writing about the telly angle, right?

Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate (pictured) were the underdog band in the World Pipe Band Championships

Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate (pictured) were the underdog band in the World Pipe Band Championships

As with a lot of docs these days there’s an over-long, overly explanatory introduction before we get to the action. However, eventually I got sucked into the world of elite bagpipery (and drumming). 

This was largely because the cast are so enthused it’s impossible not to start rooting for, say, Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate, the underdog band whose young lead drummer, Kerr McQuillan, is a shoo-in for the title of ‘Piping’s First Pin-Up’.

Inevitably, by the time 20-year-old piper Trooper Ryan Smart of the Royal Tank Regiment entered a competition and smashed it in all three categories (his rendition of The Sheepwife was particularly fine), I definitely felt myself falling unexpectedly in, well… let’s say like… with the world of pipes.

Blunt but brilliant!

James Blunt (pictured), 50, shot to fame in the Noughties with the hit 'You're Beautiful'

James Blunt (pictured), 50, shot to fame in the Noughties with the hit ‘You’re Beautiful’

In James Blunt: One Brit Wonder (Netflix), the Army captain-turned-pop star reveals he has the skillset to handle fame’s pitfalls. 

Harrow, Sandhurst and a tour of Kosovo mean the ‘most amazing day’ of his life wasn’t winning a BRIT but helping secure Pristina airport. 

Now 50 and noted for his sparky social media presence, the Noughties’ Chris de Burgh seems entirely comfortable in his own skin.

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