#VIFF17 Capsule Movie Review – Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Alexandra Dean’s new documentary reveals the iconic beauty’s intelligence as well as her patent for ‘frequency hopping’ — technology now widely used in cell phones, GPS and Wifi
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Starring: Hedy Lamarr, Diane Kruger, Peter Bogdanovich, Mel Brooks, Robert Osborne
Directed by: Alexandra Dean
Running time: 90 minutes
By Katherine Monk
A woman can be smart and beautiful at the same time. It’s just that beauty tends to be valued more and brains can be threatening. Hedy Lamarr is remembered for being golden age gorgeous, but Bombshell is destined to change all that as it reveals the biggest secrets beneath the sexy starlet’s skin: She was really smart.
There was a touch of the Austrian clockmaker in the natural beauty. She took things apart. She put them back together. She sketched inventions in her notepads. She could have been an engineer, but by the time she was a teenager, she was attracting the attention of men offering modelling and acting contracts. She did a movie called Ecstasy — and forever after, she was famous for being sexual.
The film takes us through Lamarr’s life with her own voice, found on an old interviewer’s cassette tape. From her childhood in Austria to her later life in Hollywood, the film finds people with first-hand knowledge, as well as experts on every stage of her life. What makes this more than your standard talking-head and archival stitch of biographical portraiture is the underlying narrative of Lamarr’s forbidden intelligence, and her world-altering invention of ‘frequency hopping’ — technology now widely used in cell phones, GPS and Wifi.
Dean resurrects Lamarr’s whole person without false moments or awkward fawning. The honesty makes the tragedy of her story linger. She was damned by something she had no control over: The way she looked. It’s Phantom of the Viennese Opera, with a mad genius inventor at the centre. Only in Lamarr’s case, the monster was beauty itself — the thing people saw before the soul — that left her with the deepest scars. The revelations of her profound intelligence, and her contribution to science, will no doubt force the world to see Lamarr in a new way — and perhaps rock the Madonna-Whore foundations of our world once and for all.
Bombshell is playing the Vancouver International Film Festival, running to October 13.
THE EX-PRESS, October 11, 2017