by Geoffrey Churchman
The elements in this film noir are all attractions: the theme of art, art satire, and art dealers, the principal setting on Italy’s scenic Lake Como just to the south of Switzerland — and veteran actors Donald Sutherland and Mick Jagger, the latter in his first movie acting role since 2001.
It was the closing film at the 76th Venice International Film Festival of last September, and was released by the distributor on 6 March 2020, but due to cv-19, which closed most of the world’s cinemas for several weeks, it was rescheduled.
There are basically four main acting parts: the lead is James Figueras, an amoral and greedy critic (played by Claes Bang) who at the beginning delivers a lecture to a group of (apparently American) tourists to a museum in Milan in which he demonstrates that art collectors will believe what critics tell them to believe, a slim tall blonde, Berenice (Elizabeth Debicki), who attends the lecture, is attracted to him and heads off to have fun in his boudoir; a rich art collector named Cassidy (Mick Jagger) who summons Figueras and his companion to his Lake Como estate in a corner of which is a detached house/studio in which he has put up a reclusive, legendary artist, Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland) and wants Figueras to steal one of his paintings.
The unsubtle satire, apart from what is contained in the lecture at the start, is that Debney has no body of work that anybody’s seen, reinforced by the seeming actual lack of any as the viewer discovers. Well, then, that shouldn’t pose too many problems for an art scholar lacking scruples; and it leads to fraud, property destruction and worse by Figueras, particularly when his new girlfriend possesses more ethics than he does.
The elements, however, don’t make for a satisfying whole and the script has some serious credulity issues, apart from the one mentioned. Even that wouldn’t be too much a minus when the viewer doesn’t have much time to ponder, but film noir doesn’t lend itself to that. Mick Jagger is the main draw and worthy aspect of the movie.
The Burnt Orange Heresy (98 minutes) is screening at the Shoreline Cinema.