11 oct 2021

From Celine Dion to Eminem: The 5 Best True-Fake Music Biopics

If the biopic genre aims to faithfully retrace the life of a celebrity in a film, some directors take the liberty of modifying reality somewhat, and delivering feature films where real facts, romances and inaccuracies are intertwined. From Celine Dion to Eminem, Bob Dylan and Claude François… Numéro looks back at the five best true-fake musical biopics, while Aline by Valérie Lemercier is broadcast this Sunday, November 5, 2023 on TF1.

1. Aline by Valérie Lemercier (2021) about Céline Dion


Presented out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival,
is the seventh film by actress and filmmaker Valérie Lemercier. In this feature film, the Frenchwoman pays a real tribute to Celine Dion, an artist she particularly admires and whom she wanted to embody herself. Like a biopic, the film looks back at the birth of the international star in Quebec at the end of the 60s, and illustrates her beginnings as a singer, as well as her meeting with René Angélil, the music producer who would later become her husband and the father of her children. If Aline shows a Valérie Lemercier metamorphosed into Céline Dion and looks back on multiple key moments in the life of a singer, the film still muddies the waters by changing all the names of the characters. Here, Celine Dion’s name is Aline Dieu, and René Angélil is called Guy-Claude Kamar. A way for the director to retrace the life of the singer, without having to bend to reality. A question of respect for the artist or of rights? The answer is still unclear…

2. Barbara by Mathieu Amalric (2017) about the singer Barbara


Selected as the opening film in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017,
, directed by actor and director Mathieu Amalric, is a drama that looks back on the career of the singer Barbara in a roundabout way. The plot features the story of an actress, Brigitte (played by
Jeanne Balibar
), who is hired to star in a biopic about the French artist. During the feature film, it is difficult, if not  impossible, to distinguish the story of the actress and that of the singer. An artistic choice in the style of a mise en abyme that plunges the viewer behind the scenes of the world of music and cinema. Barbara tells the story of the singer’s career through the prism of an actress, but also through real archive images that are superimposed on fictional scenes. Yet, like a biopic, the film does illustrate many events in Barbara’s life, from her activism against AIDS to her loneliness, including her diva’s whims. Jeanne Balibar recently told Numéro about this feature film: “After the film, I couldn’t listen to it anymore (laughs). I had worked so much on his music, playing his songs on the piano, that I wanted something else. In fact, I had been offered several times to play Barbara in a film, and each time, the projects didn’t seem good enough to me. I listened to Barbara a lot, like many people of my generation.”

3. I’m Not There by Todd Haynes (2007) about Bob Dylan


Released in 2007, the film I’m Not There directed by Todd Haynes is the anti-biopic par excellence. In a desire to retrace the career of cult singer Bob Dylan, the director was inspired by different episodes of his life to imagine the construction of the film. The feature film then highlights different facets of his personality: from his commitment to his side as a cursed poet or rebellious artist, from his attraction to the guitar or to traditional music. Without Bob Dylan’s name being mentioned once, I’m Not There features six different actors to embody six periods of his life and aspects of his personality. The singer was at the same time a black child gifted for music (Marcus Carl Franklin), a singing star converted to evangelical Christianity (Christian Bale) or even a tortured poet (Ben Whishaw). A facet of Bob Dylan is even embodied by a woman (
Cate Blanchett
) in the feature film.

4. Yann Moix’s podium (2004) on Claude François


How can we talk about an artist without retracing his life faithfully and chronologically ? The writer and director Yann Moix answers this question with the film Podium in 2004, adapted from his own novel published two years earlier. In this feature film, he directs Bernard Frédéric (played by Benoît Poelvoorde), a man from the suburbs whose job is to be Claude François’ official look-alike. This popular comedy delivers a critique of fanaticism and its limits, but also looks back at the colorful personality of the singer, and the many facets of his career. We then see the character dancing with the “Bernadettes”, singing in the manner of Cloclo himself, and trying to resemble him at all costs. A subtle way to evoke the emblematic French singer, without embodying him in detail as a classic biopic would have done.

5. Curtis Hanson’s 8 Mile (2002) on Eminem


Directed by Curtis Hanson in 2002, 8 Mile is inspired by the rap star’s journey Eminem. A real commercial and critical success,  the feature film retraces the journey of Jimmy Smith Jr., nicknamed B-Rabbit, who accumulates family, professional and romantic setbacks,  in a dreary city of Detroit plagued by struggles between communities. While Eminem wrote the music for the film and performed himself the role of this A young white dad who decides to try everything to break into hip-hop, we find some places that have marked his life or key characters in his history such as Lotto or Papa Doc who call back Snoop Dog and Dr. Dr. A fictionalized biography that still retains all its intensity and interest today.


Aline (2021) by Valérie Lemercier is broadcast this Sunday, November 5, 2023 on TF1.

Aline (2021) by Valérie Lemercier, currently in theaters.