“She remembers the roses. Three times that day in Texas they had been greeted with bouquets of yellow roses of Texas. Only, in Dallas they had given her red roses. She remembers thinking, how funny – red roses for me; and then the car was full of blood and red roses.”
This stylised and unconventional film about the experiences of first lady, Jackie Kennedy, in the wake of the assassination of her husband, takes it’s inspiration from a literary/journalistic source; an article written by Theodore H. White for the December 6 1963 edition of Life magazine entitled For President Kennedy, An Epilogue.
The interview White conducts with Jackie Kennedy Onassis at her home in Hyannis Port provides the framing device for the fractured narrative in which we look at the events that took place after the assassination, in particular, the funeral service in Washington D.C. and the changeover of presidency and occupation of the White House to Lyndon B. Johnson.
There are some great stylistic elements at play here. The White House set (filmed in a studio in France) is impressive, and the film was shot on super 16mm by regular Jacques Audiard DP, Stéphane Fontaine. It is also framed in the 1:66 aspect ratio, giving a convincing period feel, which beautifully recreates vintage newsreel footage.
Natalie Portman gives a strikingly un-melodramatic central performance as a self-possessed woman, struggling to appear strong and composed in the public eye, and angry at what she believes is the bad hand her husband had been dealt.
I also have to mention the great orchestral soundtrack, performed by Under the Skin composer, Mica Levi, which swells and threatens to overpower the images in parts.