Monday, August 3, 2020

film review The Burnt Orange Heresy

Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi

Written by Scott B. Smith & Charles Willeford (from his novel)

ChinoKino score: D

Review by Allan Tong

Mick Jagger returns to the screen in a cameo in this neo-noir thriller about art fraud. Jagger plays Joseph Cassidy, a man of wealth and taste who resides in a splendid mansion by Lake Como, Italy. Cassidy is a major art collector and has invited a reclusive, old painter named Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland) to reside in a house on the estate with the hopes that the legend will paint something for him. Cassidy invites a shifty art critic named James (Claes Bang) to interview the J.D. Salinger of the art world to encourage the guy to paint something. Debney likes an article that James wrote, so Cassidy brings the two together. James brings along Berenice (Elizabeth Debicki), a lovely, young American who's traveling.

This being a movie, James and Berenice instantly fall into bed. That cliche is forgivable, but what's hard to believe is the twisted tale that follows after James and Berenice meet Debney. No spoilers here, but generally speaking, the logic of some scenes doesn't hold up. In particular, how James and Berenice conclude their relationship is not believable, but clumsy. Also, the interplay between James, Berenice and Debney drags.

If the film is reaching for noir, it just doesn't. The meat of the story lacks intrigue and tension. There's a general sense of meh. I was left waiting for something to happen, something shocking, and not just violent (though this is not an excessively bloody film).

To answer the big question: Jagger is fine. No, he doesn't steal the show, but he is believable as the debonair Cassidy, a man sophistication, but also mischief and a touch of the devil. Jagger is a pleasure to watch. Sutherland adds credibility to the reclusive painter. The film is beautifully photographed and the Italian coast is gorgeous on any screen. However, visuals aren't enough to save what is essentially a dull film that doesn't strike the noirish notes it's supposed to. Perhaps the source novel by Charles Willeford is better.

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