BOOGIE WOOGIE is a highly enjoyable, acerbic satire on the contemporary art world, directed by debutant Duncan Ward and based on the novel by Danny Moynihan. Both are art-world insiders and the film has the feel of authentic anecdotes on speed.
The film has a large cast and many sub-plots, but these all coalesce around the gallery of Art Linson - a Jay Jopling like art-dealer who stands at the centre of the London art scene. Art is played in trademark oleaginous, sinister mode by Danny Huston, who needs to seriously worry about typecasting. Three main stories whir around Art. First, his main clients - art collectors Jean and Maclestone (Gillian Anderson and Stellan Skarsgard) are fucking a young artist and a gallery assistant (Amanda Seyfried) respectively, and are engaged in a bitter battle over who gets the art. Second, naive Dewey (Alan Cumming) is trying to promote his best friend, video artist Elaine (Jaime Winston) who ditches him for Art's assistant Beth (Heather Graham). Finally, ageing collector Alfred Rhinegold (Christopher Lee) is being manipulated by his wife (Joanna Lumley) and her butler (the ever brilliant Simon McBurney) to sell a valuable painting, at a price manipulated by art dealer Art Linson.
In short, the majority of characters are self-involved, sexually promiscuous, and care more about jockeying for money and fame than about art itself. Only a few - Alfred Rhinegold and Dewey - have a genuine passion for the work - and they basically get screwed over for their pains. It's not that the art world is indifferent to their pain, but that characters like Beth and Elaine will actually exploit it. After all, in the era of reality TV and constant self-exposure, pain is just another means to create a sensation.
The movie moves quickly; finely balances humour and disgust; assuredly handles its large cast; and is sharply photographed by John Mathieson (HANNIBAL, GLADIATOR). Art aficionados will appreciate the fact that the art was curated by Damien Hurst. I presume that when this finally gets released, it will be very limited. But this flick is definitely worth seeking out.
Additional tags: Joanna Lumley, Christopher Lee, Alan Cumming, Duncan Ward, Danny Moynihan.
BOOGIE WOOGIE played Edinburgh 2009 and will be released in the UK and US in April 2010. It is, rather improbably, currently being shown on British Airways long-haul flights.
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