Artemisia (1997) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|Artemisia (1997) is a French film set in Italy in 1610, and is supposedly a biopic about the first woman to make a living as an artist. In fact, there are not many details known about her life, so the writers were pretty free to be creative with the truth. The artist, Artemisia Gentileschi, was nearly forgotten after her death, but rediscovered about 40 years ago, and is renowned as both an artist (she is hung in the Louvre and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art), but as an early feminist.|
|As the film opens, we see Artemisia in a convent school, stealing a candle from the chapel. That night, in her own room, she lights the candle and starts examining her body, in what looks like adolescent sexual awakening, but turns out to be her using herself as a figure model to work on her sketching ability. The nuns find her nude sketches, and confront her father, who is a well-known artist. Her father sees talent in the work, and decides to let her work in his studio, since the nuns clearly aren't teaching what she wants to learn. She is an apt pupil, and is soon as good as her father.||
| Up to this point,
the film is on strong ground, as we learn how she became an artist,
and how creativity and sexuality are intertwined. In act two, she
becomes the pupil of another artist, who is also a randy old goat. She
continues to learn from him, but the sexual tension is growing. In act
three, they start getting it on, which is great fun for both until
they are caught. The father has the guilty man arrested and charged
with rape, to rescue his daughters honor. It was at this point that
the film became rather tedious for me.
Valentina Cervi, in the title role, proved that she could act in an intelligent role, and the cinematography is rather nice. The outdoor scenes are very scenic, and the first scene with the candle and the mirror is very well done.
Scoop's notes in yellow:
It's really not as good as its notices, despite some strong positives. It's just OK - a well produced but uninteresting biography. Let's face it, it's not like you'll be waiting on pins and needles to see how it ends up. And you should be, even when you watch a biopic, dammit. Biopics don't have to be boring. Immortal Beloved is interesting. Amadeus is interesting. This film is not.
The strength is in its visuals, and they are impressive. It creates the look and feel of the paintings and the studios of the era. The composition of the images can be stunningly evocative of that era. It looks quite impressive, and the performances seemed reasonably convincing, although I wasn't as impressed with Valentia Cervi as Tuna was. She seemed like a little kid playing at being a painter. The French academy had it fixed exactly right, in my opinion. They nominated it only for best cinematography and best costumes, and it lost both.
|The second strength is
that it is erotic, with plenty of sex and nudity.
Beyond that - nothing. There is no point. She tries to become a painter, has some ups and downs, and they tell you the rest at the end with word slides. If it were not a "true" story, it would have no reason to exist. It comes from the high school film strip school of biographies, except with sex and nudity. In fact, I guess it's fair to say that it has no reason to exist, because it isn't "true". It's one of those fanciful imaginings of the details of a life we know little about, ala Shakespeare in Love.
And my problem is as follows: if you're going to make up almost everything, at least make up something interesting. If I just wanted to learn the life story of an obscure person, I could look it up at the library.
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