Tuesday 14 May 2019

Spanish Film Festival (9) - Barrie Pattison doggedly sticks at the task in hand - MY MASTERPIECE (Gaston Duprat)

Mi obra maestra/My Masterpiece from Gastón Duprat, co-director of last year’s standout El ciudadano ilustre /The Distinguished Citizen,was possibly the most awaited film of the Spanish Film Festival. The new film seems to have been a hit here, drawing near full houses in repeat screenings.

It’s a handsome production with showy performances, great visuals and thematic links to the earlier production, again analyzing the notion of fame.

The opening is promising with the gallery guide asking the tour group to stop for a minute and look at the painting in front of them - the kind of consideration they don’t give other media work. Already the film makers chicken out, cutting to closer shots under the titles rather than letting our view of the work run. 

There is more lively exposition, with Guillermo (El secreto de sus ojos) Francella’s monologue about Buenos Aires, the best city in the world and also the worst, and a montage of pedestrians over which we get imaginary character summaries - the old Jonathon Winters routine.

Turns out Francella is a small time art dealer having trouble with Luis Brandoni, his longtime friend and no longer saleable client who’s into him for money big time. Upmarket dealer Andrea Frigerio doesn’t want to know. Brandoni is in the habit of making obscene propositions to the office secretary and when a customer looks like buying one of his paintings he shows up and puts a couple of pistol shots into it. Francella tells him even his stunts are out of date - piercings are a familiar event.

We see Brandoni at work in his cluttered, pet-filled studio and determined student Raúl Arévalo shows up offering to pay for instruction, being given heart breaking work as a cleaner. We never see Arévalo’s sketches. Brandoni’s young mistress is getting similar rough treatment.

Francella manages to get the whacked out artist an industrial commission. That venture goes South too, but a customer shows interest in one of his old nudes going at a cut price. He's already given that to the mistress. The leads set out to retrieve it with the key she left.

One nice edit with the girl with her new squeeze opening the street door, then cut to a close up Brandoni under the shaking bed.

Put out on the street he orders a lobster diner which he has no intention of paying for. However, a sudden twist puts Brandoni in the ICU with blunt trauma (nicely staged stunt) and no memory of his past. His condition leaves no hope and Francella, kitted up with a L-Pill, takes him from the ward secretly - his wheel chair left behind.

We then move into toothless satire of the art market - Frigerio offering to promote the dead artist’s paintings on an unprecedented scale, a sheik buying out his exhibition, former student Arévalo, having been convinced that he had no temperament for art, has joined an NGO and shows up querying the money that Francella is finally seeing for his years of support and abuse.

There’s some more plot twists and great scenics like the shots of the museum on the promontory, the empty hospital ramps or Francella driving through the snow-covered mountain hairpin bends at thirty thousand feet. The leads give imposing character turns and you’ve got to like asides like the dismissal of football as twenty-two millionaires chasing a pilota.

If this one wasn’t following the director’s major work it would be pleasant enough entertainment.  But we were hoping for more.

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