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Klimt (2006)
Director: Raúl Ruiz

A portrait of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt whose lavish, sexual paintings came to symbolize the art nouveau style of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Klimt (2006)

Wittgenstein’s Gaudi Chapel

While the world relaxed and enjoyed itself between wars. When art was a solitary and experimental endeavour. When Europeans rediscovered the power of nature in sex and in some cases the other way around. When lives really could be deep, and debauched and intelligent too, three men came out of Vienna: Freud and Wittgenstein were two of them. There may have not been such a concentration of greatness for many decades before and until the Fasori Gimnázium, also under by then slippery Austrian rule.

There’s a commonality among those two and Klimt, and even between them and the more cerebral Budapest next generation. Its a matter of passion, sense (in both meanings) and concept curvature. While the two great art nouveau geniuses were wondering about space in Brussels and Barcelona, Klimt worked his space, curvature and escape from the inside of women. Lots of women.

His work is of that type that is immediately attractive, so lots of people decorate with it. A brief familiarity with it breeds confusion, so unless you dig as deeply in viewing as he did in making, it will not connect. As a result, if you are serious about making a film of him, about him, you simply cannot do the normal thing: somehow artificially inducing drama into portraying a few known events. You cannot do what Greenaway did with Rembrandt, simply showing sexual passion and making the film painterly.

So along comes Ruiz, who is a strange bird, very much like Klimt. There’s no middle familiarity with him. Either you know him deeply, you wrap your life where he has, or you miss the passion. You think him dull. You actually believe that someone would spend this much energy fine tuning the ordinary. Well, the thing about these three men is that they were their own worst critics. They all three created their own new worlds were none was before, worlds so perfect and pure anyone of lesser power would be unable to break them. Then they each turned on their own creation, finding and exploiting the weaknesses of their own creations, selves and now us. The art is not in the man but in how he made himself broken.

Look at each of them and see the beauty in partial dismemberment. Ruiz denotes this at the beginning with otherwise inexplicable, powerful amputee sex. As with Ruiz’ best work, people act as others, split selves, whores of themselves, auditors and bureaucrats of sex. Love must be dissymmetric. Narrative to have power must be a bit jagged inside, where you want to go.

I admit, I think Malkovich was a bad choice. He really can be dull. But he is supposed to stagger through this, finding puddles of warm light, clean frames or open enclosure. The women are the thing, always the thing here and they are drawn well.

Posted in 2008

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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