Art and Craft

There was more than one person who suggested that, given his talents, Mark Landis should paint original works, and sign them with his own name. Which sort of misses the point.

What he does, and why he’s become famous, is copy works by famous painters. Or copy their style, at least. And then pass off the works to museums and galleries as originals. One key point though, is that he doesn’t try to sell the works, and therefore he is not committing any crime.

He may know that what he does is forgery, but he calls it “philanthropy.” For Landis, it is the act – the entire act, of painting and presenting a work, complete with paper and wood and frames and canvases all made to look age-appropriate, and then presenting it to a gallery as authentic – that is important.

Yes, his work is undeniably good. But if he had toiled for these same years producing originals, would he be a famous painter? Probably not. As someone in the film said, his schtick is as much performance art as it is painting. And what a performance.

Dante’s Inferno

Well I liked this a good deal more than The Last Dancer in the World. Familiarity with the subject matter, maybe? I’ve always been a fan of the Pre-Raphaelites. However, it’s mostly the paintings that I am familiar with, not the story of their lives. This is an opportunity to learn a bit about that.

Russell’s style lends itself to these period piece films, and the cast all seem to be of the era, with just the right facial features and hair, perfect costumes…

Catfish

On the Internet, no-one knows you’re a dog. Wow. Can you say “awkward”? Another guy learns the hard way that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But he certainly took it well, and his brother got a movie out of it. Good stuff.

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

Right place right time, sure, but there’s also a whole lot of talent on display here. Drew Struzan is the real deal. I wish I had a small fraction of his abilities. And a nice guy, to boot…

Free Radicals: History of Experimental Film

A reminder to watch more of this kind of stuff. It took me back to my days in school, in the art studio, being creative, and making a lot of stuff, with whatever was at hand, by any means available. Try things out, don’t worry too much about doing it “the right way,” iterate. Cool work can result…

Picasso and Braque go to the Movies

I’m not alone in thinking that much of the work of Picasso and Braque in their Cubist period is basically indistinguishable. This film only reinforces that sense, and makes one wonder if maybe they didn’t finish one another’s paintings. It would’ve been a great laugh for them, I’m sure, and as symbiotic as their relationship seems to have been, what’s the difference?

None of which tells you anything about the relationship of their work to the cinema. But the present film endeavours to do just that. It describes how the two were great fans of early film, and shows the ways in which their work was influenced. In particular, how movement and the passage of time, which film was able to capture for the first time, made its way into their painting. Well done.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Two hotels in a row. Oh, and there’s Tom Wilkinson again…

I wanted not to like this film. Wes Anderson is one of the most overrated directors currently making movies, in my opinion. Or one of the most inconsistently good directors. Or maybe it’s just that I hate Jason Schwartzman. Which may explain why I liked Grand Budapest quite a bit.

Plus, the fantastic color palette. I’m thinking most especially of the purple uniforms inside the red elevator. And the attention to graphic design detail, down to the logos on the cake boxes, the signage throughout, the uniform insignias…

Tim’s Vermeer

Obsession of the very best kind. This guy went to incredible lengths to recreate the exact room where Vermeer painted The Music Lesson, leaded glass windows, northern light and all. And then he spent how many hours actually painting the thing?! While looking through a special lens he created, in his belief that that was how Vermeer actually painted his works, ultra-realistic in a time before photography.

The result? Incredible, particularly when you learn that Tim Jenison didn’t know how to paint at all. He’s an inventor. Some might dismiss his painting as nothing more than an elaborately conceived forgery, with no value beyond a kind of proof of concept of his optical device. If that is the only thing it is, the effort was worthwhile.

Vermeer lived and painted in 17th century Netherlands, but Tim approximates more closely a Renaissance man. He can now add Art to his list of accomplishments.

The Monuments Men

The premise of the Monuments Men and their mission is right up my alley: Art is worth saving, as it represents the best of our culture. And this cast should be able to do something with the material: Clooney, Goodman, Damon…

Too bad the movie sucked. Cheesy and disjointed, this had a couple of major problems. First, do you want to be a comedy or a drama? It wanted to be funny, but seemed to think that in bad taste, this being a war film, with Nazis plundering and all that. So it came off as half-cocked, an ungainly hybrid. Second, who edited this mess? Apparently they had to work to get it down to two hours, but it probably would’ve benefited from further trimming to 90 minutes…

Disappointing.

 

Headhunters

Yet another Norwegian film, full of tall, good-looking people. This was competently made, with good production values and decent acting. The story slowly became more and more complicated, and made me wonder how it was going to end. All of the loose ends are tied up at the finish, but it’s done by means of the main character describing all of them to us, which is never as satisfying as a story that allows us to snap the pieces together, aha! Not to mention more than one scene in which unbelievable luck allows our protagonist to continue.

Still, an engaging 100 minutes. The only thing I really didn’t like was the haircut of the hero, but even that is taken care of by the end of the film.