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  • Film
  • 2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars
This missive from prolific Chilean exile Ruiz (best known here for his Proust adaptation ‘Time Regained’) tries so hard not to be a conventional biopic that it ends up being not very much of anything else either. Klimt’s headily sexual, gold-flecked canvasses would seem to be promising ground for this maverick cinéaste, but his film takes a perversely tangential approach to the early twentieth-century Viennese painter’s artworks (a glimpse here and there, basically), and an even more oblique angle on his biographical details. There’s aesthetic debate among Austria’s bickering academicians, a string of bastard children, syphilis and a long-suffering spouse, but the key for Ruiz seems to be Klimt’s obsession with the alluring Lea de Castro – or is it the actress playing her in one of Georges Méliès’s silent films? Obviously, the shading between truth and falsity, reality and representation’s all rather elusive.

It’s not unintriguing, but without anything resembling a dramatic progression, the going soon gets stodgy (understandable that a 97-minute producer’s cut exists, though this is Ruiz’s integral version). A dialled-down, decidedly opaque John Malkovich offers little help in the title role, while miscast Saffron Burrows lacks persuasive allure as the supposedly seductive object of his affections. Given that Ruiz’s original screenplay was translated from French into German and then English for an aphoristic polish by Gilbert Adair, it’s hardly a surprise the dialogue’s often an awkward fit, but there are compensatory visual grace notes too, as two-way mirrors frame erotic roundelays and a slammed door throws Klimt’s studio into a dazzling snow-storm of floating gold leaf. Moments to treasure, then, but only moments amid prevailing head-scratching tedium.
Written by Trevor Johnston

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 1 June 2007
  • Duration:127 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Raúl Ruiz
  • Cast:
    • Saffron Burrows
    • John Malkovich
    • Paul Hilton
    • Veronica Ferres
    • Stephen Dillane
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