Current Issue #488

Film Review:
The Burnt Orange Heresy

Director Giuseppe Capotondi’s grandiose art-world-skewering dramatic thriller has impressive elements but ultimately feels more than a little absurd, although the wacky cast is still worth watching.

Drawn by Scott B. Smith from a novel by Charles Willeford (whose tales are full of dubious types and cynical sentiments), this UK/Italian co-production looks nice, with its fancily-photographed Milan and Lake Como locations, but for a movie so desperate to mock artistic pretension, it’s positively crammed with artistic pretension.

Author and critic James Figueras (Danish player Claes Bang) is introduced giving an improbable show-off lecture about how you can’t trust anything in the realms of art, and it’s so obviously meant to warn you of what’s to come that he might as well have leapt off the screen and slapped your face. Bang (from another movie that bitingly explored art, The Square), looking like a sinister Scandinavian Clive Owen, is strong here, and his James is quick to jump into bed with complete stranger Berenice Hollis (Elizabeth Debicki), who (you guessed it) probably isn’t who she says she is.

They hardly know each other, and yet he nevertheless invites her to join him for a weekend at the palatial home of art dealer Joseph Cassidy who’s, but of course, played by Mick Jagger in his first proper cinematic performance in almost 20 years. Rubbery old Mick, it goes without saying, can’t really act, and he seems especially uneasy in the first of his three-ish scenes here, but he dearly wants a screen career and he does naturally bring an iconic weight to any role. And he certainly knows a thing or two about masks and personae as well.

Cassidy desperately wants to get his greasy mitts on a painting by the oh-so-mysterious Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland, although it might very well have been Christopher Walken), to the point that he’s housed the elderly artist on his estate, and he recruits James to steal one of Debney’s new works. James is certainly the guy for such a sneaky job too, but his quest is hampered by his inability to trust anyone, including himself, particularly into an odd and messy third act or so.

Burdened with one of the most ridiculous titles in recent memory (which has caused some punters to think it’s The Burnt Orange Hearsay), this should still be tolerable if you’re in the right woofy frame of mind, and a general disdain for critics could also be a bonus, given that Bang’s James is revealed as something of a fraud and a frustrated artist too.

After all, what do critics know?

Reviewer Rating

The Burnt Orange Heresy (MA) is screening in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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