Art lovers have been shaking their fists for some time over the inaccuracies and inventions of this flamingly weird impression of Gustav Klimts life. But whatever the liberties taken with fact, the wild art nouveau exponent is paid reverent tribute in this slight but dream-like work by Chilean fabulist Raul Ruiz.
Though sniffy John Malkovich is the last person Id hire to impersonate the artist he sure doesnt look like a man with 30 children from as many mistresses the film does its damnedest to suggest the subjects lavish, decorative style, as well as the sexual charge of his material and the Fin de siècle context of the artists work. Plot is not exactly the central concept here.
Klimt begins the film by lingering near death in a sanatorium flanked by artistic disciple Egon Schiele (a bug-eyed Nikolai Kinski), then the film whisks us through his storied past: studios full of naked models, arguments with various supporters and denouncers, and a crucial relationship with free lovin Lea de Castro (Saffron Burrows), who offers keening pleasure and bittersweet regret.
You couldnt call it a perceptive film it seems the work of one of those undergraduates with a poster of The Kiss hanging in their dorm and you couldnt call it one with emotional heft. But slender as it is, you cant help but watch with a smile as Ruizs gently nutty camera records another golden-tinged moment of ecstatic pleasure.
Though I have the sneaking suspicion this might be better at a greater length (30 minutes have been gouged out of the North American release), whats here is guaranteed frothy pleasure for aesthetes and fellow travellers. (Ultra 8)