The Beatles had screaming, swooning fans. Elvis Presley had screaming, swooning fans. And if you picture their fans screaming and swooning, you’ll realize they are all young women.
Now picture the fans of Tom Jones. They are screaming and swooning, but they’re a generation or two older. Importantly, they have some ironic knowledge of their own role in a fame game that involves underwear thrown on stage.
In Canada, however, in French-speaking Quebec, there is a crooner of Tom Jones’ age who still draws screaming, swooning fans, and they are as old as he is, but they seem to be missing that self-aware irony that you get in Vegas. It’s a strange cultural phenomenon, made stranger by the linguistic isolation of Quebec. All this is documented in a film called The Ladies in Blue.
Ladies and Gentleman
Michel Louvain is a gracious celebrity. He spends hours signing autographs and posing for pictures. Before stopping, he’ll give fans several last chances to come up and snap a quick pic. The Ladies in Blue watches Louvain do this, but from a distance. We not only see the autograph lines; Louvain lets us follow him to the tailor’s and to a recording session with a younger band called Porn Flakes.
The cameras never get very close. We never get a sense of the real Michel Louvain. That’s probably just right for this documentary, which takes his fans’ point of view. They know him as the celebrity he is, and not the private man, so that’s what we get, too.
We do, however, get to know some of his fans personally and intimately.
His biggest fan has a pile of videos, photos, and other memorabilia, though her most treasured memory is Louvain coming to her house for dinner. Another fan does have a life outside of Louvain. In one of the documentary’s funnier scenes, she recalls her honeymoon, not knowing what to expect from sex. Her recollection — told as it is from the mouth of a silver-haired grandmother-type — is charmingly naÃ¯ve; she was particularly surprised at how quickly it was all over.
The documentary probably lets its subjects go off on too many tangents for too long. It’s nice to know that the honeymoon fan makes scarves for the homeless, but it’s hard to reconcile those scenes with a documentary on fame and fandom.
A Little Perspective
The big finale is a concert in what looks like a large stadium. On closer inspection, it looks like a venue with forced perspective made to seem bigger than it is. Whatever the size, it’s packed with graying ladies who can’t wait to see Louvain in concert. The camera — shockingly, in hindsight — goes into the ladies’ room and watches the fifty-and-over crowd putting on makeup, freshening up, and fixing their hair to get ready for the man of their dreams. One of them sees the camera and starts singing her favorite Louvian tune, and the rest of the restroom joins in.
The Ladies in Blue is a portrait of fandom and fame, from the outside in. When we fall in love with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, it’s perfectly logical: we admire their talent, their looks, their good works, their humility, their humanity. But to someone who doesn’t know Brangelina from Clark Kent, we probably look like screaming, swooning girls. So it is for we United Statesians looking at the admirers of a big fish in the little pond of Quebec. We find it quirky and funny that those ladies get so lathered up about Louvain. He’s just a man.
And that’s exactly the sort of realization you would never get with one of your own favorite celebrities. It takes distance to see the folly in ourselves that is so obvious in others.