I am so excited for tuesday that I may just sit here and wait til then:
Hotel for Dogs
What Doesn't Kill You
Nothing But the Truth
Art on Film
Psst... I'm gonna let you in on a little secret... I got a little behind on my homework this semester (this winter gets so long and dreary!), maybe could have studied a bit harder for my Renaissance to Modern Art History Survey class. Now it's the end of the semester, and time for a little hurried extra credit. Luckily for me, that particular extra credit involves watching a few biopics of artists.
Though never able to crawl out of total art obscurity in his own lifetime, Vincent van Gogh gets the last laugh, that is, if dead people can laugh. (eerie...) Probably the most biopicized artist ever, here is a short list of some van Gogh imaginings.
Vincent & Theo This film, about van Gogh and his brother was shown during my class. As the initial dvd menu screen popped up on the screen I listened in on the couple sitting behind me. Girl: "Are they a couple?" Boy: "Well, probably, it is an art thing." I think Altman gets a little heavy-handed with his symbolism at moments, but otherwise this is a solidly interesting film. Plus, Tim Roth as van Gogh makes a lot more sense visually than Martin Scorsese in the same role in Dreams. Kirk Douglas takes over as the painter in Lust for Life and David Abbott is the artist post-magic-potion-resurrection in Starry Night.
Are we, as a people, trying to make up for ignoring him during his own lifetime? The first speech in Julian Schnabel's (himself a painter) film Basquiat references the cult of the over-looked artist embodied by van Gogh. David Bowie is fun to watch as Basquiat's friend Andy Warhol. Did Basquiat exploit the role of "ghetto" artist, or did the public exploit him? You can continue considering these issues, and others in the documentary on Basquiat, Downtown 81.
Of course there is Artemisia, about Artemisia Gentileschi. This film, fittingly, got a lot of flack for turning the rape of Artemisia by her teacher Agostino Tassi, into a love story. Why? Why?? Continuing the Italian Renaissance-ish theme, there is The Agony and the Ecstacy, with Charlton Heston as Michelangelo during the artist's difficulties with painting the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo didn't consider himself much of a painter (for reals!) and wasn't so happy about that particular commission. However, when the pope tells you to fresco a church, you shut up and fresco the damn church. Don't forget Derek Jarman's Caravaggio! If you'd rather try some 15th c. Russian art, go for Andrei Rublev instead.
Klimt was recently released, starring John Malkovich. Or there is Camille Claudel, about a young woman's relationship with Auguste Rodin.
There are at least two movies about the Spanish master Goya, Goya's Ghost (with Stellan Skarsgård as the painter) or Goya in Bordeaux.
Turning to more contemporary art, we have Love is the Devil, about Francis Bacon. Unable to license Bacon's work, the film instead turns to using Baconesque effects. My Left Foot is the story of Christy Brown, an artist and writer with cerebral palsy who learned to create with his (left? you ask) foot. There is Ed Harris' Pollock. Favorite quote, when Pollock is asked how he knows when he's finished with a painting he responds, "How do you know when you're finished making love?" Or Frida, starring Salma Hayek: a good film, as far as biopics go, though I think it's regretable that it's in english rather than spanish. Best quote I've seen yet in one of these pictures is Frida concerning her death, "I hope the end is joyful, and I hope never to return."
A few of really interesting art documentaries: How to Draw a Bunny, about the life of Ray Johnson, after his both quiet and dramatic (simultaneously?!) suicide. In the Realms of the Unreal is a particularly beautiful documentary about the secret art of Henry Darger. And there is Crumb, the Terry Zwigoff film about Robert Crumb and his unusual (to say the least) family and their personal obsessions. (Anyone in the room like to slowly eat an 8-plus foot long string as a bowel cleansing exercise? If so, raise your hand now.)
I'm sure I'm missing some very worthy films. Any other artists on celluloid that deserve a little "Waterfont" Blog time?