Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Burnt Orange Heresy

The Burnt Orange Heresy
Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi
Released March 6, 2020

Art has an incredible quality to exist long beyond the life of its creator, and, as a result, often takes on a new significance as a piece of their legacy. Viewing or owning something acclaimed is seen as an accomplishment, and collectors and museums go to extraordinary lengths to possess something of historical value. A finished – or unfinished – painting can’t possibly contain all of the meaning and intention the artist originally put into it, yet there’s plenty that can be extrapolated and summarized by those who think they know or understand. At times, that leads to outright fabrications and a true difficulty in determining what’s actually true or real.

James Figueras (Claes Bang) is an art critic who spends most of his time in Italy delighting tourists with lectures about art. When he meets a visiting American, Berenice Hollis (Elizabeth Debicki), he is immediately taken with her charm and intelligence. Their romance begins, and she accompanies him to Lake Como when art dealer Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger) summons him to meet reclusive painter Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland) and steal one of his paintings. James must balance his desire to be relevant and to succeed with his commitment to honesty and true artistry.

James seems like the kind of person who is well aware that he knows much more about the subjects he discusses than anyone else he encounters, and therefore, at the very least, takes that into account to make his anecdotes seem all the more exciting and fantastical. When he’s alone with Berenice, the act isn’t nearly as charming or convincing, particularly when she begins to pick up on just what it is that he is doing. Jerome changes the dynamic because James is indeed enamored with him, even if it’s merely because he strives to achieve the same public profile and renown through any means necessary.

The cast here is talented, but none of them seem to be doing their best work. Bang, the memorable star of Sweden’s 2017 Oscar nominee “The Square,” is at times intriguing and at others despicable, but he’s not an overly effusive lead. Debicki, who has impressed in a range of recent films including “Widows” and “Vita and Virginia,” manages to be mysterious and alluring, but the role isn’t terribly consistent. Jagger, a peculiar casting choice, is certainly dramatic, while Sutherland portrays the recluse without much enthusiasm. Like a painting that is given too much credibility based on interpretation, this film, which positions itself from a creative angle, doesn’t actually deliver all that much, telling a lackluster and unmemorable story.


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