Sunday, March 09, 2008

Overlooked DVD of the month - KLIMT

KLIMT is a wonderfully free-form movie from veteran film-maker Raul Ruiz. Released in butchered format in the UK last year, it's now available in a full two hour director's cut on DVD. The film is less of a standard biopic than an impressionistic, sometimes surreal visit with the Austrian artist. John Malkovich gives a wonderful performance in the central role. We see Klimt's foul mouth and short temper with the pretentious fools in cafe society. We see his childlike excitement, but also gentle discretion, over his many affairs. He fathers many children, sees them rarely, but when he does he has a great affinity with them. He is broad-minded, honest, but has that thin-skinned anger that people who have no time for convetional mores often have.

If you don't know much about Klimt prior to watching the film, you might feel a little lost. Ruiz assumes knowledge about the paintings, the people in Klimt's life and the "characters" of the day. I find this refreshingly unpatronising, but frankly, if you haven't heard of Wittgenstein or Schiele you might feel a little lost. In addition, Ruiz' film resists a straightforward linear narrative structure. We first meet Klimt on his deathbed and then skip back and forth through different scenes in his life. Some of these are presumably real, some are fantastic. To give two examples, Saffron Burrows plays an artist's muse who has seemingly two disinct characters - the "on-show" personality, and the private personality - and these are represented as two separate people. And Stephen Dillane plays an enigmatic figure who pops up throughout the film, commenting acerbically on Klimt's life and acting as a sort of ghostly companion.

To be sure, the film is far from perfect - if you want a sure vision and a film that feels like a composed, coherent unit, you'll have to look elsewhere. But the fun is in the feeling that anything could happen. Moreover, I did feel that I had gained an insight into the artist's personality and work. The tech package feels a little rough - or perhaps it's the DVD transfer that makes everything look muddy and under-lit? Still, the movie is well-worth checking out.

KLIMT was released in Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, South Korea and Japan in 2006. It was released in Spain, Estonia, the US and UK in 2007. It is now available on DVD.

1 comment:

  1. It's not often that I disagree with a take on a film but "Klimt"? This thing was a disaster. Not only did it make very little sense, it was damned boring as hell. I managed to get through it, on the third attempt.