I have nothing but the utmost respect for Céline Dion. Say what you will about her being over-the-top or her actions contrived, but at the end of the day sheer talent cannot be denied. In this day and age of artists who pop up on blogs, getting loads of buzz and then disappearing by the time they actually release an album, Dion is a reminder of what it takes to stay in the game for good. She has rightfully earned her place in pop music history as a legend. I challenge you to go through her My Love-Ultimate Essential Collection and admit to not knowing the words to at least half of these songs.
Her first ever authorized film Céline Dion: Through the Eyes of the World is a documentary which follows her along with husband René and son René-Charles on their travels during her 2008-2009 Taking Chances World Tour. Along the way, we witness memorable visits to South Africa where we see a nurturing Dion cuddling with Baby White Tigers and then lying down in Nelson Mandela's former prison cell. We see her breaking down emotionally in Germany where she visits a Concentration Camp, standing over a pit where ashes of the deceased were scattered. In South Korea, she introduces one of her dancers who after being born there, emigrated to America as a child. That dancer was reunited tearfully with her motherland, being welcomed with a resounding round of applause from the audience, making for a very genuinely heartfelt moment.
During a press conference in China, Dion is grilled by the difficult media about what "China Power" means to her. Always politically correct and vaguely inspirational, she handles the tricky moment with grace in speaking convincingly about the importance of standing behind one's dream no matter where they might come from. Of course, this didn't quite answer the question, but it drew nods of approval from the media. We see Dion in Paris where she is awarded a Legion of Honour medal by Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy for her outstanding contributions to French culture, in taking the language far beyond the borders of that nation. Outside her hotel, we see her being boxed-in by thousands of fans after a two hour-long show, where she takes the time to sign 300+ autographs for her fans from within her car. Now that's dedication. And I haven't even mentioned the amount of love and respect she gets from her native Montreal, where hoards of fans are seen chasing her vehicle outside the Bell Centre after her show. Canadians tend to be tougher on their own talent so accomplishing this level of pandemonium is no easy feat.
Making it through the Taking Chances World Tour was by no means a cakewalk. Dion is forced to postpone an Australian show after developing a Respiratory Infection. In one of many candid moments, we see her suffering from a case of Lockjaw, which gets fixed right before our eyes by a therapist! As the tour nears an end, Dion experiences problems with her voice and we actually get to sit in on a visit to her Throat Specialist, getting a peak at what those magical vocal chords really look like at work. At the urging of her Specialist, she is advised to go on a two-week rest, which then results in a number of canceled dates. However, she makes it through her tour on-top, delivering us one final touching rendition of My Heart Will Go On - a gold standard in balladry - before the curtains are drawn.
Despite being beautifully filmed and very much a fan's dream come true, the documentary is not without its faults. Director Stéphane Laporte's insistence on keeping full performances of songs and repeatedly cutting footage from city to city to city to drive home the point that yes, the whole world loves Dion, just becomes too gratuitous at points. As a result of this, the film comes close to clocking over two hours, which borders on being long for a film of this genre. Regardless though, the documentary serves its purpose fully and we get an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the touring lifestyle of an international superstar. She is actually quite the joker and is surprisingly entertaining even off-stage.
Dion is portrayed as being dedicated in every aspect of her life whether it be as a wife, a singer, a daughter, an icon and perhaps the role she is still trying to tackle - a mother. Seeing her panic after her son loses his favourite stuffed lamb is heartbreaking and we get a sense of her limitless desire to please her son. Dion's tears however, immediately turn to cheers after the lamb is relocated and we cannot help but feel happiness for her. Yes, it's all a little embarrassing, but it comes from a sincere place and that's good enough for me. Sony Pictures' Céline: Through the Eyes of the World is now in limited theatrical release. Grade: A-