Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Five Years of GKIDS: The Painting

He can channel the styles of Gauguin, Matisse, and Modigliani, but his latest canvas still remains unfinished.  This had led to a distinctly stratified caste system for the inhabitants of his unfinished work.  Love will lead to a quest for the creator in Jean-François Laguionie’s The Painting (trailer here), which screens during the IFC Center’s retrospective tribute to GKIDS.

Ramo is one of the few fully painted “Alldunns” who shows a capacity for empathy.  It obviously has something to do with his Romeo-like love for Claire, the Modigliani-esque incomplete “Halfie.”  As decreed by the Grand Chandelier, the Alldunns live large in the castle, the Halfies huddle in the surrounding garden, and the poor, oppressed Sketchies are banished to the forest.  Ramo’s social mingling is strongly discouraged and social mobility is nonexistent.

Defying the Alldunn ruling order, Ramo sets out with Claire’s Halfie BFF Lola and a fugitive Sketchie to find the painter and convince him to finish his work. When the trio reaches the edge of their canvas, they discover they can hop into other paintings, including a nude study of the voluptuous Garance, clearly modeled after Odalisque. Soon they frolic in a Venice where carnival never ends and pick up a defector from a war time painting (which seems out of place in the painter’s early modern oeuvre).

Of course, it is all working towards a tidy message of tolerance.  The film’s heart is in the right place, but unfortunately there is an awkward logic Alldunns’ claim to superiority—that the artist cared enough about them to actually finish them.  Characterization is not exactly Laguionie and co-writer Anik Leray’s strong suit either, but at least Lola emerges as a resourceful role model for young girls.

Frankly, The Painting is more of a visual thing (and appropriately so).  Laguionie cleverly echoes the work of great modernists, immersing viewers in each lush, painterly environment.  His colors are consistently striking and the diverse stylistic influences are merged together quite smoothly. Kids who enjoy visiting museums will be charmed by its unique fantasy world, while parents will appreciate the classy package.  Recommended for family viewing, it screens this coming Monday (12/30) as part of the GKIDS series at the IFC Center, perfectly timed for Christmas vacation.