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A character study and a meditation on art in a time of opulence and syphilis. Gustave Klimt (1862-1918) lies in hospital, dying. In reveries, he recalls the early 1900s: it's fin de siècle Vienna. At the World Exposition in Paris, Klimt meets Georges Méliès, who does a moving picture for him, and Klimt falls under the spell of a woman who may be Lea de Castro. We see Klimt in his studio; we meet his mother and sister, who suffer from mental illness. We watch Klimt the libertine. On his deathbed and as a younger man, he imagines things as well: encounters with ministers and waiters and with women who are willing participants in his pleasures. Is this the source of art?Written by
When Klimt mashes the cake in the man's face, the icing on the man's face is not covering his right eye. In the next close-up shot, there is a large blob of icing covering the man's right eye. In the next long shot when Klimt starts to wipe the man's face, the icing is no longer covering the man's right eye again. See more »
Miserable, false, sexist, ego-centric, and sometimes interesting...not enough for me
John Malkovich is talented but so quirky and full of himself he nearly ruins many of his movies. Surely he sees how affected he can sometimes be? Here he plays the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt in the years before WWI, and though we don't quite know what Klimt was like, we know he didn't play his life being John Malkovich. Biopics always struggle with the character against the actor, of course, since history is what it is, and so you swallow all this and see what the actor and the director can do within these constraints.
The director in this case is the late Raul Ruiz, the Chilean director who just died in Paris with a small cult following and a growing reputation. He concentrates not on Klimt's art, or even Klimt's attitudes as an artist of his time (this is the time of early Picasso, late Cezanne, and the growing influence of Gauguin). Instead it deals with Klimt's personality, which we know the least about, emphasizing his vulgarity, his obsession with nude women around him as much as possible, and his countless children for whom he apparently did as little as possible.
What might have been more interesting is to see a young Klimt being transformed by a 6th century Italian fresco with all its gold leafwork (this is true), or to maybe see him interact with the Vienna Secessionists in their effort, as a group, to break from the academy. What we get instead is a fantasy about the women around him, including a bizarre and willing entrapment of Klimt by a wealthy woman and her double (or twin?) which turns into a kind of erotic sex game with a man watching behind 2-way glass. Then there is a mysterious fellow who seems to only exist in Klimt's head--he's fascinating, yet only half realized.
If Ruiz had taken all this into something purely fantastic, where the trappings of history were shed, it might have been a transporting and special movie, an actual cinematic experience on its own terms. At times it tries, and there are some distortions and some beautiful moments, a bit out of place in the narrative, that stand on their own.
But mostly this lurches and jerks from situation to situation. The art is great, what we see of it, and the sets are nice, though even they are filmed too often with a yellowed dullness that defies the outrageous decorative beauty of the time. (I just happened to see "The Wings of the Dove" set in the same period and the set and costume design blows "Klimt" away). All of this is too bad especially for an art movie about an artist who believed in total aesthetic immersion--where everything, including your toilet paper holder, had to be an artistic component of a life of art.
It's not a disaster, but it's certainly a feminist's nightmare--where Klimt might have defended his painting of women as being honest and where the sex might have been free expression and liberation, the movie pushes all this into pure voyeurism and submissiveness. Women dangle and prance and decorate the movie sets, and your screen, the way Klimt, who was no feminist, might have approved, but which isn't accurate. It isn't about an equality in free loving sex, it's about women from a man's point of view. Period. Some of you will like that, but I did not.
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