Foreign & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video ">
Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video
An art dealer, his right hand, their clients, the agents who keep them in business, and artists all circle each other endlessly in upper-crust London. And I do mean crust—brittle and precariously on the verge of crumbling. And I do mean endless, too, as price—and mood—fluctuations keep these high-end collectors in constant motion, whether it’s to get a jump on a sale or to get into each other’s pants. The smart ensemble cast proves that the crust is not a flaky one, though. A talky script and little in the way of visual flair leave a wide berth for the characters, and for the most part, the actors have great fun with their roles.
They had so much fun it appears nobody wanted to be the bad guy. Stellan Skarsgard and Gillian Anderson play married collectors, whose divorce arbitrator attempts to divide their possessions, which include a Warhol, a Matisse, and a Picasso. Danny Moynihan’s clever adaptation of his own novel offers: “What’s Matisse without Picasso anyway?” Tee hee. The dialogue consistently adds to the fun. The divorce proceedings are toothless, though. Anderson and Skarsgard are talented and give us complex characterizations, but they’re just too darn adorable to be fighting. As a go-getter gallery director, Heather Graham (who must be contractually obligated to flash her tits in every role) sneaks around behind her boss’s back, yet she never seems to be in any real danger of losing the job. She doesn’t backstab anyone that didn’t have it coming in the first place. Alan Cumming’s rendition of Dewey, a wannabe manager who’s left behind in the heightened pace, is actually too good a performance. He’s so pathetic that the ones who screw him do it as a matter of course.
Danny Huston, the boss, is an art dealer whose first name happens to be Art. Tee hee. He’s the all-powerful mogul, with a hand in every transaction, who refuses to be outbid. Huston’s enormous Hollywood legacy and his giant charisma give him the most presence in the film, from his bellowing voice to the unique, infectious laugh he developed to color this role. But the figurative incest of this community is deep, and director Duncan Ward allows a good-natured chumminess to arise that opposes any notion of the usual decay of the vacuous upper class. This ain’t Gatsby. It’s more of a jaunt—with the basic message that art is hard to manage, especially while managing one’s personal life in the process.
art on display adds another level of value, legitimizing the squabbles
and placing these characters in a real aesthetic landscape. Damien Hirst,
the English painter and front man for the Young British Artists—the
’90’s-era collective of modern and conceptual painters, performers, and
sculptors upon which many of Moynihan’s characters are based—is billed
as “Art Curator” on the film. The title refers to a Mondrian painting based
on his latter-day “Boogie Woogie” pieces, and works by Tracey Emin,
Banksy, and even Hirst populate Ward’s frames and delight the voracious
collectors, and for good reason. You can’t go wrong putting good art in
a film about good art.