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Sunday, October 2, 2011

ART FILM FEATURE: KLIMT





MOVIE REVIEW 'KLIMT'
Portrait of a Ladies’ Man
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Published: October 17, 2007

John Malkovich has virtually cornered the market on portraying cold, obsessive aesthetes in the thrall of demonic visions. And in ‘Klimt,’ Raul Ruiz’s lavish biographical fantasia, his depiction of the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt adds another Mephistophelean figure to his gallery of elegant monsters.

The painter, who died in 1918 at 55, joins Proust’s Baron de Charlus in Mr. Ruiz’s ‘Time Regained,’ the silent film director F. W. Murnau in ‘Shadow of the Vampire,’ Gilbert Osmond in ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ and Valmont in ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ in the roster of sinister Malkovich eccentrics, all more or less interchangeable beneath their elaborate period get-ups.

The actor’s chilly stare, attenuated speech and attitude of towering hauteur define a mannered acting style that is a technique unto itself. These imperious alter egos have little feeling for others, who are depicted as helpless objects in the laboratory of a mad scientist.

I have not seen the 130-minute director’s cut of ‘Klimt’ that was shown at the 2006 Berlin and Rotterdam film festivals, but I imagine it was structurally more sound than the 97-minute blur of a movie that opens today in New York. It’s not that Mr. Ruiz, a Chilean-born surrealist based in Paris since 1973, is the most accessible of filmmakers to begin with. The shortened version is lovely to look at, but the stilted dialogue and crude overdubbing in scenes where English is not spoken often make it an impenetrable hodgepodge.

‘Klimt’ can be appreciated as a voluptuous wallow in high-style fin-de-siocle ‘decadence,’ to use a word bandied about in the film as a synonym for evil. The overstuffed salons of upper-class Vienna in the waning days of the Habsburg Empire are so cluttered with expensive ornaments that moving around feels like navigating inside a giant wedding cake.

Read full article here.


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