The complicated, colliding feelings of anger, confusion, and cold acceptance that come with any personal loss are mapped out here with a sense of fine-tuned chaos, with Levi’s astonishing score somehow playing them all: a lilting, hopeful flute note carried on an alien wash of strings, or a militaristic death march thrumming behind a graceful flutter of piano.
“Jackie’s” intelligently disordered assemblage of facts and feelings is likewise difficult to parse.
For away from its piquant, sometimes incendiary observations on celebrity, politics, and the present-tense construction of history, the film is also a stirring, deeply upsetting account of individual grief at any level of scrutiny.
A breathtaking sequence finds Jackie, finally unaccompanied in her wing of the White House, swirling through rooms, necking vodka, popping pills, and listening with rueful irony to Richard Burton’s Broadway recording of “Camelot.” Imagined or not by the filmmakers, it’s a version of Jackie Kennedy she’d never have counted on anyone ever seeing, not least given her painstaking personal dedication to preserving and displaying domestic evidence of the House’s previous inhabitants.
“Objects and artifacts survive for far longer than people,” she tells the camera, a nervous smile plastered on her face, in her famous television special, “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. Kennedy.” “They represent history, identity, and beauty.” “Jackie,” for its part, seeks to represent its subject beyond the cultivated objects and images we associate with her, from that bloodstained, bubblegum-pink suit downwards.
Coolly handsome as the film is, it’s a collation of aesthetic choices that push us persistently and ever-so-subtly into the discomfort zone.
Sebastián Sepúlveda edits it into non-sequential shards of memory, jaggedly disarranged in the manner of post-traumatic consciousness, while cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine’s searching close-ups repeatedly step an inch too far into its subject’s already frail personal space.
The filming of that televisual tour, nearly two years before the events of Nov.
22, 1963, is one frame by which “Jackie” hangs its cross-hatched impressions of her state of mind in the days following her husband’s death.
The other is an arranged interview with Life journo Theodore H.