Cinema: Fascinating portrait of a First Lady

The release of long-awaited biopic, Jackie (starring Natalie Portman) coincides this week with the departure of one of America's most popular and symbolic first ladies, Michelle Obama '“ whose legacy can only grow over time.

Thursday, 19th January 2017, 2:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th January 2017, 2:37 pm

It seems a fitting juncture to look back at a First Lady whose image and personality have lent her iconic status across the years.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis, married to John F Kennedy, was a style icon and her use of media and publicity was stage-managed to create her idealised persona.

To the public, she was the perfect woman, wife and First Lady, and her life continued to fascinate people for decades after her short stay in the White House.

Like Obama, her image linked fashion and politics - from her pink Chanel tweed and pillar box hats to her infamous black veil, Jackie matched visual culture with political impact to memorable effect.

Turning his camera to her story is Chilean director Pablo Larrain. His previous films (NO, The Club, Tony Manero, Post Mortem) have all been in Spanish so Jackie is a definite change of direction.

However, Larrain’s most famous work thus far, 2012’s NO, was also a period piece and his approach to telling the past is similar here.

In NO 1980s Chilean television was recreated perfectly, blending real archive footage with re-enactments, matching tone and colours throughout.

In Jackie, Larrain shoots in 16mm, recreating a grainy image of the past and with close-ups bringing the audience directly into the life of Jackie Kennedy.

This far-from-regular biopic covers the period of Jackie’s life between the assassination of her husband, next to her in the car in 1963, to his funeral, that she planned.

It is an intimate, personal film with insight into a very private time.

Its telling is moving and artistic and will surely make an impression on many as it examines whether such women in politics are ever viewed in the collective public imagination as more than supporting figures.

Natalie Portman has so far received Best Actress nominations for BAFTA and Golden Globe awards and will likely be in the mix for an Oscar this year.

Larrain has another film on release in only a couple of months, and it’s another Biopic, this time focusing on Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Neruda will be released in the UK in the spring.