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2.9 out of 5 stars
2.9 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 24 March 2008
The movie is the product of enormous love and dedication on the part of the director, the production team and the actors. It is visually stunning and conjures up the appearance and atmosphere of Vienna at the end of the Nineteenth century with great fidelity. The costume design by Birgit Hutter is wonderful, and Ricardo Aronovich, the Director of Photography, creates a cinematic equivalent of Klimt's swirling, bejewelled paintings.

The acting is convincing but there are discrepancies between the naturalistic style of the British actors like Saffron Burrows and Stephen Dillane, and the more expressionistic theatrical approach of the German, Austrian and other nationalities. John Malkovich's approach is different again, and although he greatly resembles the painter, Gustav Klimt, he does not seem to have effectively integrated himself into the whole. As far as resemblances are concerned, the prize goes to Nikolai Kinski as Egon Schiele, and if the director had decided to go all out for an Expressionist approach like Kinski's, the movie would have been a greater success.

Its main problem, however, is that it lacks dramatic structure. It is dreamlike (and occasionally nightmarish) to a degree, but it remains structurally far too loose for its two-hour length.

However, it is a visual treat and if you like the art of the Vienna Secession, it's well worth viewing.
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on 4 July 2015
I bought this because I love Klimt paintings but after the first hour of watching this I lost interest in the characters and John Malkovich didn't seem at home with his character - or maybe he portrayed Klimt so well I was the one not comfortable with Klimt ! I saw no real contact between Klimt and his work which is what I was hoping for so stopped watching. The swings from past to present and back swirled too much for me to keep up too. Bah. Disappointed.
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on 27 December 2012
It's notoriously difficult to make any kind of decent cinema about, or in homage to, serious painting. Kitsch is frequently what results --particularly when the original visual artist being made the subject of the film has a strongly distinctive visual style.

It seems that so often film makers can't resist trying to provide some sort of cinematic equivalent to the 'look' of the original art. When the underlying conceptual basis of the art is either too sophisticated and complex to readily translate into a theme in the cinematic narrative, I suppose falling back on some sort of equivalent visual style is a seductive alternative; easier than actually addressing the core nature of that art. Such is the case in this film in which the Viennese Successionist master Gustav Klimt is treated as a vehicle by which to construct an expressionistic mosaic depicting his cultural milieu: the decadence and avant-guarde sophistication of Vienna at the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A big subject for a little film and evidently way beyond do-able for this particular director.

It's never made clear why Klimt is deemed interesting enough to focus upon and his cultural context is presented in only the most confused and cosmetic manner. As drama this is a boring, totally un-involving mess; a self-indulgent, plotless narrative sequence of impressionistic scenarios touching upon the themes of sex, death, manners, style and cultural pretentiousness (yes --all elements of Klimt's art, but so what?). Don't expect a historical biopic. Even a dodgy one. You will learn bugger-all about Klimt either as a painter or a man. What you'll see is John Malkovich in costume doing his usual performance thing while participating in another artily 'interesting' film project. Klimt doesn't get a look-in. Klimt, the character, is simply a self-indulgent sensualist; a posturing, syphilitic aesthete who refuses to conform to critical expectations but who as artist adopts an ill-defined position rejecting all camps. Probably the film's director's idea of a sane position in a mad world. Certainly, from the start, he has his protagonist do little more than pass through one expressionistic dream sequence after another in which naturalistic acting clashes madly with heightened performance style in a manner that quotes Surrealist cinema in the most self-conscious, Postmodernist manner. Such obvious signalling to the viewer gets to be a little trying after a while. In a word: annoying. And yet, it's never explained why everyone around Klimt in scene after scene finds him so fascinating and brilliant an individual. The script simply assumes this to be self-evident and makes no attempt to present, if not a charismatic character, at least an interesting personality. It's character presented as surface pattern.

And what about the Art? Purely as an exercise in visual style, this film also fails to satisfy. It's full of verve in the sense that it plays with a succession of images suggesting the relationship between simulacra and identity with considerable abandon. An over-lush obsession with surface style is made to suggest the decorative decadent veneer of a bourgeois 19th Century Europe teetering on the brink of a horrific new Modern era. The film's collaged surface is obviously supposed to stand-in for the apparent superficiality of Klimt's highly decorative form of mannerism. But whereas there was genuinely a sophisticated and unsettling depth to Klimt's overtly decorative style, the cinematic equivalent is purely superficial style communicating precious little about it's subject. Instead it self-indulgently assumes that the audience will bring a decent knowledge of Klimt's place in art history to the cinema and thus be able to interpret what's presented on screen; the better to appreciate the creative vision of the thing. Be warned: if you don't particularly care about art or arthouse cinema, you will certainly find this film pretentious twaddle.

As style it certainly lacks the high aesthetic quality of Klimt's original. Although the production design is generally good, I found the cinematography to be mushy and chocolate-boxy. Worse still, the postmodernist exuberance of the director's choice of imagery often fell well below the taste-standard of the art it is attempting to honour. For example: architecture as cake; gold foil falling like flakes of snow. Really cheesy, obvious visual ideas abound in which the crossover between stylisation and parody is handled very crudely in comparison to the Successionist master's own work. Klimt fans: be warned.

This film, as 'art', is an empty, pretentious exercise in style. Klimt's painting (for all it's obvious appeal to mall girls) was far superior to that and justly deserves it's high cultural status. And a better standard of film homage than is offered here. Having said this, in my view the film deserves more than a single star rating because there are flashes of genuine film artistry evident in it here and there. I can see that it might have been a decent project in principle. More's the pity.
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on 17 July 2011
I found this to be a very interesting and entertaining film, it has a lot to do with the artistic temperament and on from that how fame attracts the desirable and undesireable, and those who seduce and want to be seduced. Added with the turn of the century Vienna and the period costumes and attention to detail this film explores what it is to be a successful artist during a time of decadence and indulgence, while pushing the intellectual high art of the day to its limits. Worth watching more than once.
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on 4 January 2008
For me, this film expressed perfectly that great artists who are misunderstood and unappreciated by many during their lifetime, will remain so also after their demise. Therefore the only point of making art is its value for the creator itself. Sure, the film mixes dream and reality without any prompting, and is thus somewhat hectic, or neurotic, if you like, but my guess is that this was the actual case with Klimt, too. In total, it is an exciting, a non-Europeanlike nor Hollywoodlike treatment of cinematographic medium by a Chilean director. Thumbs up.
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on 13 May 2014
It really is very pretty. The camera work, the sets and the beautiful naked models are all nice to look at. There is, however, no trace of a plot, no characterization to speak of, nothing about Klimt's art and very little indeed about his life. I am afraid that I am only qualified to comment on the first half of the film as I slept through the second half, but it certainly didn't seem to be going anywhere when I lost consciousness. If I have trouble sleeping in the future I shall certainly attempt it again.
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on 3 November 2015
Well, I live anything to do with the secessionist movement. A good visual interpretation. As much as I love John Malkovich's work I never saw him as Klimt though. We all have ideas of how people looked and behaved I suppose.
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on 1 February 2010
I love Klimt's work and was really looking forward to watching this DVD. What a waste of time and money. I am really sorry that I bought the DVD - it gives no insight into what inspired Klimt and focuses on what seems to be his life of womanising. There is no story-line. All he seems to do in the movie is seduce some or other woman. John Malkovitch is irritating in the extreme. I probably lasted about 45minutes of the movie, before giving up in disgust. I will either toss the DVD or donate it to the local library. It does a disservice to Klimt and if you like his work - don't watch this DVD - it is likely to put you off Klimt.
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on 3 November 2009
Some superlative acting makes this very complex film comprehensible. I bought it hoping to use it to illustrate the fallacy of artist's intention in teaching aesthetics - it's much too convoluted for that, but it is a provoking depiction of the life and times of Klimt. Since that's what it sets out to be, it's worth the while.
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I bought this DVD after setting aside the reviews listed here as probably overdone, and after all this should be an 'artistic' film. Well, the other reviewers are correct, this is pretentious rubbish and no excuses that it is an 'art-house' film will disguise the fact. John Malkovich wanders through the film saying and doing little. You will learn nothing of the life of Gustav Klimt. The 'extra' of director Raoul Ruiz explaining his work simply serves to confirm your worst fears; he had no comprehensible plan or story in mind and just doodled from scene to scene. A complete waste of time.
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