Ten Movies for Visual Arts Lovers
25 Sep 2019, 6:04 pm
Artists’ biographies and the narratives surrounding the works have always been a fertile ground for cinema. Check below a list of ten films that have visual arts as a backdrop. All features are available on streaming platforms or for rent online – pick your favorite and enjoy!
Gauguin – Voyage to Tahiti (2018)
In 1891, the artist Paul Gauguin decides, on his own, to go into exile in Tahiti. There, he hopes to find a freer way of painting, far from Europe’s moral, political and aesthetic codes. However, he ends up sinking into the jungle, facing loneliness, poverty and disease. It is also there that he meets Tehura, with whom he marries and who inspires him to create some of his most important paintings. The film is not exactly a biography, but it represents well the artist’s immersion in Polynesia, and how the native way of life impacts his production. The photography of the feature, with some of the most beautiful landscapes in Tahiti, is a show on its own.
The Square (2017)
Great winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Festival 2017, the film tells the story of Christian, a respected art curator who desperately tries to attract more visitors to the museum he runs in Stockholm. Among the attempts, he hires a public relations firm to promote a new installation. However, after having his cell phone stolen, Christian loses control of his work, his life, and ends up causing drastic situations capable of putting his principles into play. The film discusses issues such as what contemporary art is and how a large museum relates to its supporters and the public.
Loving Vincent (2017)
Nominated in the category of Best Animation Movie at the 2018 Oscars, the film follows the journey of Armand Roulin, son of Joseph Roulin, postman and friend of Vincent Van Gogh. A year after the painter’s suicide, father and son find a letter sent by Van Gogh to his brother Theo, which never reached its destination. Encouraged to deliver the correspondence, Armand leaves for the French city of Arles in the hope of finding some contact with the family of the deceased painter. There, he initiates an investigation with the people who knew the artist, in order to decipher whether he really killed himself. Presented as the first film entirely colored in oil paint – it took more than a hundred artists, 65,000 frames in painting and six years for the film to be ready – the animation is a true declaration of love for the work of the Dutchman.
In 1880, the sculptor Auguste Rodin is already well known, but he never got any orders from the State. This opportunity reaches him at the age of forty, with the sculpture “La Porte de l’Enfer”. While working alongside his wife Rose Beuret, he falls in love with his most talented apprentice, Camille Claudel, who becomes his lover. When the hidden relationship ends, Rodin radically changes the shape of his work. In this biopic, it is possible to see the rigidity with which the artist, considered the father of modern sculpture, faced his work and his life.
Woman in Gold (2015)
Maria Altmann is a Jewish survivor of World War II who decides to sue the Austrian government to recover the painting “Woman in Gold” by Gustav Klimt – portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, stolen by the Nazis during the occupation in Austria. She has the help of a young American lawyer, inexperienced and idealistic, and an Austrian journalist. Inspired by real events, the film does not really enter the artist’s life or the painting production process, but discusses the importance of a work of art in history, as well as themes about heritage and memory.
Big Eyes (2014)
Margaret Ulbrich is an insecure painter, single mother, until she meets the charismatic Walter Keane and gets married. She creates popular works for children with big eyes, but Walter starts to publicly assume authorship of the works, with the connivance of his wife. Ten years later, she decides to sue him in order to regain the rights of her own pictures. But how could everyone believe in this farce for so long? Why would Margaret let herself be carried away by the scheme? These are some of the questions raised by the story.
Mr. Turner (2014)
J.M.W. Turner was an English impressionist painter. The artist is fascinated by light and its effect on the sea, cities, buildings and landscapes. Turner is the single father of two daughters. In a sad period of his life, he meets an incredible woman, with whom he falls in love. The aesthetic rigor of the artist’s work is clear in the plans and narrative created by Mike Leigh. In some moments, the viewer is invited to appreciate Turner’s work, not from his paintings directly, but through the photography of the feature film, which tries to recreate the lights and shapes present in Turner’s production. The film was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2014.
The Best Offer (2013)
In a world of art and antiques auctions, Virgil Oldman is an old and esteemed but eccentric genius specialist in art, known and appreciated by everyone. Oldman is hired by a young lone heiress, Claire Ibbetson, to auction off her extensive collection of art and antiques left by her parents. With the help of a friend, he restores and remounts strange mechanical parts found among Claire’s belongings, while learning to deal with the feelings he has for her. The film uses works of art to present an intense mix between romance and suspense.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir is tormented by the death of his wife, the pains of arthritis and the concern for his son Jean, who fights in the First World War. There appears Andrée, a beautiful and radiant young woman who awakens an unexpected energy in the painter. Rejuvenated, Renoir makes her his muse. When Jean returns to his father’s house to recover from a serious injury to his leg, he becomes involved with Andrée and also makes her his muse, but of a still distant dream: that of making movies. Those who appreciate the work of the painter will be able to recognize in the scenes several elements of his famous production.
Oscar-nominated in six categories, the film tells the story of Frida Kahlo, one of the leading names in Mexico’s artistic history. Highly regarded and acclaimed as a painter, she had an eventful open marriage with Diego Rivera, her partner also in the arts, and also a controversial affair with politician Leon Trostky. The feature highlights some of the main events in her life, which inspired her for the many self-portraits she produced.