Martin Teller's Movie Reviews

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Posted by martinteller on October 19, 2012

99% of what I watch is done in the company of Gustav Klimt.  One of his paintings hangs above our couch, just a couple of feet from my head.  It’s not an original, of course.  In fact, it’s not even a whole painting, but about a third of “Water Serpents II”.  It’s quite nice, though, the nicest adornment we have in my opinion.  Most of the stuff my wife picks out is pleasant but very generic artwork… things she chose because they match the colors of the walls or the curtains.  I’m not sure what about the Klimt appealed to her, but I’m glad it’s here, this exotic and mysterious woman watching movies with me.

However, I know almost nothing about Klimt, and Raoul Ruiz’s movie really told me nothing.  From the reviews, some of them rather angry, I gather that the film is exceptionally inaccurate, portraying Klimt as a madman who died of syphilis.  I don’t know how true it is (Ruiz doesn’t claim the film is a biopic) nor do I care.  The real tragedy of this film is how incredibly dull it is.  Other Ruiz works I’ve seen have meandered, but usually with a playful spirit.  What we have here is lifeless, a series of scenes too tedious to bother trying to figure out what they’re driving at.  Malkovich brings nothing interesting to the role, playing the artist as half bored, half mildly annoyed.  He talks about art in the vaguest terms and without passion, and fools around with a series of women without passion as well (as you might expect in a film about Klimt, there is heaps of nudity, although generally presented without the sensuality of his work).

I don’t mind the slippery reality (Klimt spends a lot of time talking to a man no one else can see) but it’s typically pretty hard to discern why any of it is supposed to matter.  It’s just there, limp on the screen.  Here’s Klimt looking bored and annoyed at another discussion about whether things are beautiful or useful, here he is looking bored and annoyed as he overhears someone making an unwitty witticism about his work, here he is looking bored and annoyed pursuing the maybe-real-maybe-not actress that supposedly fascinates him.  Once in a while something interesting or unusual will happen, but they’re fleeting bits and it’s all so disconnected that the effect was negligible.

The film is sumptuously shot and has a lovely score.  There are germs of ideas being bandied about.  But none of them are developed to any satisfaction, and the result is a frustrating chore of a film.  It communicates so little, provides so few rewards for sticking with it.  Rating: Crap (38)


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