Friday, April 4, 2014

Artist Movies

This is not a list of bio-pic movies about famous artists, but movies where the characters are artists. Perhaps some other time I'll make a list of the best bio-pic movies of artists but this one is suggesting films that portray the lifestyle of artists.   Being an artist is extremely solitary and introspective.  It requires that an individual stare into a mirror for a living, and to depict what they see, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but it always makes for drama.  The films I am suggesting are not in any particular order, and in no way comprehensive, but my personal suggestions that dramatically portray artists and the creative process.

The Door in the Floor (2004) (Rotten Tomatoes 67%)
I can't say I liked this film as much as I loved watching Jeff Bridges as the alcoholic,  psychologically damaged children's book author/illustrator Ted Cole.  The story languidly follows Ted and his wife along with his new apprentice during a summer at their studio/home in the Hamptons.   The tragedy that plagues this dysfunctional family rolls out in a way that begins to illustrate Ted's talent to turn his own history into mythology that through the retelling becomes truth.

Guinevere (1999) (Rotten Tomatoes 86%)
Girls and photography are a cliche and this film of an ugly duckling student who falls for the older photographer, threatens at first to be a straight forward formulaic story.  By the halfway point the characters begin to evolve as the young, impressionable Harper Sloan (Sarah Polley)starts to peer through the cracks of the charming, Irish photographer Connie Fitzpatrick (Stephen Rea) into the reality of the artist's life.  The scene of Harper's mother (Jean Smart) putting the lie to the artist's own self deception is painful as any pretense of artistic brilliance is laid bare.

Speak (2003) (Rotten Tomatoes xx%)

Kristen Stewert as the taciturn PTSD victim Melinda Sordino isn't really acting, she's just being Kristen Stewert, but this does not detract from this touching story of an emotionally scarred student and her art teacher, lovingly and charmingly played by Steve Zahn.  The art in this film is background, almost like another character.  Although it ends feeling a bit like a Lifetime Channel Special, it is still very accurate to the importance and challenge of teaching art to young people.

Art School Confidential (2006)  (Rotten Tomatoes 37%)
Consisting mostly of a sophomoric depiction of the art school and gallery business the plot runs off the rails quickly and can't seem to decide whether to be an irreverent teen flick, or a dark satire.  So why is it on this list?  Two reasons; John Malchovich as the art professor and because even though it was terrible, the story is actually accurate.  The most touching part for me is the character of Audrey (Sophia Miles) who is an art student  and daughter to a once famous painter who's work has fallen out of style.  The touching scene of her visiting her father's poorly attended gallery opening and admitting he should have quit years ago, only to learn that she is becoming an artist to somehow redeem his reputation and the family business was a throw away scene that could have been an entire movie.

New York Stories-Life Lessons (1989) (Rotten Tomatoes 73%)
Probably one of the best depictions of an artist at work ever put to film. Martin Scorsese directs Nick Nolte in part one (Life Lessons) as artist Loinel Dobie.  The sensuous mixture of music, cigarettes, flesh, alcohol and paint is to artists what "Babettes Feast" is to chefs.  This short film about a New York artist and his process of creating one massive canvas while he conversely destroys his relationship with his girlfriend/muse (Rosanna Arqeutte), puts poignant focus on the artist's ability (or need?) to destroy and create at the same time, to draw order and beauty from chaos.

The Fountainhead (1949) (Rotten Tomatoes 83%)
This story of a brilliant young architect who would rather destroy a building than see his vision compromised by a committee of trustees places the concept of artistic integrity literally on trial. Based upon the book by Ayn Rand and starring Gary Cooper as artist Howard Roark this classic is begging for a remake.  I've hated Gary Cooper in every movie he's ever been in, and this film is almost unwatchable, the script is stilted and the performances are cartoonish.  I see Leonardo DeCaprio in the lead as Roark in a remake.

Do you have any suggestions?....let me know in the comments section.


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