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  • 10 months later...

Well, it's been a while, but I don't know how I overlooked An American in Paris (1951), as the protagonist is a would-be artist himself, Jerry Mulligan.  The best evidence of what the moviemakers think about the contemporary state of art (mostly painting) is in the sequence leading up to Jerry's meet with predator Milo Roberts, where he picaresques by artists and art on his way to his selling place.  Judging from what we see it's not much.  Or they didn't know enough to rightly represent it.  Or they accurately reflected what was available on the streets of Paris at the time.

 

Anyway (Oh, and by the way, isn't Leslie Caron adorable? I just had to get that in.  One of the cutest overbites ever.), we get some abstract stuff:

 

x4hlox.png  and more abstract stuff:

 

10potvs.png

 

And then we get:

 

iqx383.png 

 

Even Jerry wonders if that's Winston Churchill (a well-known perpetrator of art).

At the meet-up scene, we see a gallery of homages to Degas ballerinas, and other impressionist/post-impressionist themes:

 

2i7sjdl.png 

That's not a bad pair of ladies to the left of Milo.  Maybe they're meant to echo her--or she them.

Finally, we get Jerry's work:

 

F9q6kTC.png

 

Ho hum.  His stuff, and most of the other stuff is indifferent.  Again, it's beyond me wether the intent is to satirize the contemporary art scene, a portrayal of what the uninformed thought it ought to be, or an accurate portrayal of the real one.  The spoof of Churchill, and the snide attitude of movies to modern art in general, makes me think it is the first.  But there is some stuff that jazzes me.  Naturally, we don't get a close up of it:

 

GYrp24J.png

 

The portraits of the women are something I'd like to see closer up.  Of course, the real work of art is not a painting at all:

 

gEUB8mr.png

 

It's a 1939 Delage D8 120.

 

 

 

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Art in the movies immediately brings to my mind Salvador Dali in Hitchcock's "  SPELLBOUND and the second iteration of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.  Before I watched AN AMERICAN IN PARIS I went back and reviewed the making of the movie and it is interesting how Freed and Minnelli selected the artists to do Gene's paintings and how the backdrops for the 17 minute ballet were made and lighted.  Included too are the back walls of the cafe where Gene meets Leslie...take a closer look and you will be quite surprised. 

 

To all TCM fans if you want to watch the movies better read more. 

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  Before I watched AN AMERICAN IN PARIS I went back and reviewed the making of the movie and it is interesting how the Freed and Minnelli selected the artists to do Gene's paintings

 

 

Where can that be found?  I'd like to read that.

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Where can that be found?  I'd like to read that.

The book is THE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT..Hollywood's Greatest Musicals and it is nothing but information on Arthur Freed's movies..absolutely fascinating and you will look at all the movies again with a new or different perspective.  The author is Hugh Fordin. 

 

Glad you are interested..I am a great classic movie fan and have a library about a variety of classic movie topics/persons. The most interesting books are usually about the directors, not much on the actors unless it was George Sanders or Humphrey Bogart. 

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The book is THE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT..Hollywood's Greatest Musicals and it is nothing but information on Arthur Freed's movies..absolutely fascinating and you will look at all the movies again with a new or different perspective.  The author is Hugh Fordin. 

 

Glad you are interested..I am a great classic movie fan and have a library about a variety of classic movie topics/persons. The most interesting books are usually about the directors, not much on the actors unless it was George Sanders or Humphrey Bogart. 

 

 

Thanks for the info!  When I write a post for this thread, I like to find out about who did the art that shows up in the movie.

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  • 2 months later...

Scarlet Street (1945) has been shown a couple of times recently.  It'll be on again in July.  As Ben Mankiewicz noted, it's one of Fritz Lang's American movies that most closely emulates his work in Germany in terms of tone, visually and thematically.  As art and a painter play a central role, it naturally occurs to one to wonder about who did the paintings.  Unusually, for this movie, that's easy to answer. Lang commissioned John Decker, a prominent, if not notorious, artist living in the Los Angeles area at the time.  I won't go into his biography, it's not the point of this thread, and besides, he's easy enough to find out about.  Suffice to say, he hung around a lot with Errol Flynn and John Barrymore.  Also for this movie, it's also unusual that the paintings Decker did for it are a cut above, way above, the usual fare we get.  There's been a bit of critical analysis.  Here are two links:

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=03y0BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA362&lpg=PA362&dq=scarlet+street+paintings&source=bl&ots=bNdVXEP_9o&sig=OUhMLhz5YIcjtyV1aZxb4Btmiro&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEkbi0kp7TAhWEhFQKHUH9BbM4FBDoAQgiMAA#v=onepage&q=scarlet%20street%20paintings&f=false

 

http://filmnoirfoundation.org/noircitymag/La-Chienne-vs-Scarlet-Street.pdf

 

Generally, Decker's paintings are not rated as masterpieces, but they don't have to be to be good, and certainly a lot better than almost every other movie with created art in it.  Here's a couple of examples:

 

scarletstreetpainting1.jpg

 

14086aae-e0c4-48e6-bf4c-3cde287e8ef6_zps

 

They are generally classed in the Primitive style, after Rousseau.  That is, art by self-taught artists that lack technical sophistication, yet have a powerful insight into the human character and condition.  Shorn of the techniques of perspective and the refinements of representational painting, the Primitive style portrays the essential, the meaningful.  In a way, it is more sophisticated, in that shows only what's important.  Aside from being the currency of the plot, and providing all sorts of material for developing the story and characters, commenting on them, and elaborating them, the paintings also provide a commentary on filmmaking.  Just as the practice of painting renders the three dimensional world, or an abstract of it, into two dimensions, so does making a movie.  The techniques in both, translating (or not) the real world into the portrayed, involve distortion, compensation, and compromise.  Ring a bell?

 

One last comment about portraits.  In many movies, portraits of characters form a focus around which the story is built, or become the driving force for the plot (think of Laura, 1944).  Usually, these are merely adulterated photos with a layer of varnish over them.  The portrait Cross does of Kitty, with biting irony turned into a 'self-portrait,' is wholly different:

 

kitty.jpg

 

Despite undeniably being a portrait of a beautiful woman, there is yet something behind it that is distinctly disturbing, unsafe.  But perhaps I see that because I know about Kitty.  Maybe it's not a masterpiece, but to me it's the most striking painting made for movies.

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I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the 1990 movie "ALL THE VERMEERS IN NEW YORK" in this thread.  The 2 main characters meet in a room full of Vermeer paintings in an art museum. 

Enjoyable film for sure. Surprisingly there has never been a film on the the failed artist who was forging Vermeers, namely Han van Meegeren. The tale of this amazingly untalented painter being able to fool many supposed art experts with his clumsily composed "Vermeer" paintings would make a wonderful film expose. First he is charged with crimes concerning the removal of the country's treasures and then has to prove that the paintings are not really Vermeers, but canvases he painted personally. Either way, he was in dire trouble with the government.

Speaking of Vermeer, that documentary about recreating one of his works, was a travesty as many true art lovers knew. Read the following for review:

 

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/jan/28/tims-vermeer-fails

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Scarlet Street (1945) has been shown a couple of times recently.  It'll be on again in July.  As Ben Mankiewicz noted, it's one of Fritz Lang's American movies that most closely emulates his work in Germany in terms of tone, visually and thematically.  As art and a painter play a central role, it naturally occurs to one to wonder about who did the paintings.  Unusually, for this movie, that's easy to answer. Lang commissioned John Decker, a prominent, if not notorious, artist living in the Los Angeles area at the time.  I won't go into his biography, it's not the point of this thread, and besides, he's easy enough to find out about.  Suffice to say, he hung around a lot with Errol Flynn and John Barrymore.  Also for this movie, it's also unusual that the paintings Decker did for it are a cut above, way above, the usual fare we get.  There's been a bit of critical analysis.  Here are two links:

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=03y0BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA362&lpg=PA362&dq=scarlet+street+paintings&source=bl&ots=bNdVXEP_9o&sig=OUhMLhz5YIcjtyV1aZxb4Btmiro&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEkbi0kp7TAhWEhFQKHUH9BbM4FBDoAQgiMAA#v=onepage&q=scarlet%20street%20paintings&f=false

 

http://filmnoirfoundation.org/noircitymag/La-Chienne-vs-Scarlet-Street.pdf

 

Generally, Decker's paintings are not rated as masterpieces, but they don't have to be to be good, and certainly a lot better than almost every other movie with created art in it.  Here's a couple of examples:

 

scarletstreetpainting1.jpg

 

14086aae-e0c4-48e6-bf4c-3cde287e8ef6_zps

 

They are generally classed in the Primitive style, after Rousseau.  That is, art by self-taught artists that lack technical sophistication, yet have a powerful insight into the human character and condition.  Shorn of the techniques of perspective and the refinements of representational painting, the Primitive style portrays the essential, the meaningful.  In a way, it is more sophisticated, in that shows only what's important.  Aside from being the currency of the plot, and providing all sorts of material for developing the story and characters, commenting on them, and elaborating them, the paintings also provide a commentary on filmmaking.  Just as the practice of painting renders the three dimensional world, or an abstract of it, into two dimensions, so does making a movie.  The techniques in both, translating (or not) the real world into the portrayed, involve distortion, compensation, and compromise.  Ring a bell?

 

One last comment about portraits.  In many movies, portraits of characters form a focus around which the story is built, or become the driving force for the plot (think of Laura, 1944).  Usually, these are merely adulterated photos with a layer of varnish over them.  The portrait Cross does of Kitty, with biting irony turned into a 'self-portrait,' is wholly different:

 

kitty.jpg

 

Despite undeniably being a portrait of a beautiful woman, there is yet something behind it that is distinctly disturbing, unsafe.  But perhaps I see that because I know about Kitty.  Maybe it's not a masterpiece, but to me it's the most striking painting made for movies.

The work of Henri Rousseau, former civil servant was perfect for the movies both as inspiration or in actual usage as when Wilder put his painting The Sleeping Gypsy behind the bed in Jack Lemmon's apartment with Shirley MacLaine ensconced there throughout the film, as a metaphor maybe for her psyche. I've always thought Decker, who was fond of making portraits of Hollywood celebrities in as you say, a rather Rousseau way might also have been influenced by the Surrealistic art of Victor Brauner. The straight on portrait of Kitty is like the work of Henri with its lack of perspective and flat patterns which are a bit like Matisse.

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Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, there are some freaky murals or paintings hanging on the wall in the hidden passageway to the Castavets' apartment.

 

A scandalous portrait painting figures prominently in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

 

A possibly forged painting is at the center of How to Steal a Million.

 

Hitchcock's Psycho would not have been Psycho without Norman Bates' favorite painting.

 

Interest in paintings leads Angie Dickinson to cheat on her husband in Dressed to Kill. Apparently, although the scene was set at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, it was filmed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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I've always thought Decker, who was fond of making portraits of Hollywood celebrities in as you say, a rather Rousseau way 

 

I created the wrong impression in my post.  It was Lang's idea to have Cross' paintings echo Rousseau's style.  He hired Decker to execute them.  Decker was a highly trained artist.  He began his career, as I read, illustrating and moved into painting--most notably portraits of Hollywooders, as you mention.  He was unsure himself of the style he painted in.

 

It seems the intent of this thread has been forgotten.  Not surprising, seeing I haven't posted anything to it in so long a time.  I'll paste my opening comments for readers unfamiliar:

 

Watching The Moon and Sixpence I recorded from yesterday brought this idea to mind.  Art comes into movies in two ways.  One is based on real artists and their work, and understandably it is good.  Naturally, otherwise they would not have been the subject of the movie.  In the other way, the artist is a  fictional character and the art made up for the movie.  Almost universally, this art is wretched.  Even in movies where a big deal is made about a famous contemporary artist being commissioned to create work(s) for the movie, the results are at best unremarkable.  There used to be only two movies I knew of where the art made for the movie was any good.  But Moon/Sixpence also has some good painting. It's specifically avoided until the end of the movie when it appears in technicolor, meant to be a stunning change from the previous black/sepia and white.

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I created the wrong impression in my post.  It was Lang's idea to have Cross' paintings echo Rousseau's style.  He hired Decker to execute them.  Decker was a highly trained artist.  He began his career, as I read, illustrating and moved into painting--most notably portraits of Hollywooders, as you mention.  He was unsure himself of the style he painted in.

 

It seems the intent of this thread has been forgotten.  Not surprising, seeing I haven't posted anything to it in so long a time.  I'll paste my opening comments for readers unfamiliar:

 

Watching The Moon and Sixpence I recorded from yesterday brought this idea to mind.  Art comes into movies in two ways.  One is based on real artists and their work, and understandably it is good.  Naturally, otherwise they would not have been the subject of the movie.  In the other way, the artist is a  fictional character and the art made up for the movie.  Almost universally, this art is wretched.  Even in movies where a big deal is made about a famous contemporary artist being commissioned to create work(s) for the movie, the results are at best unremarkable.  There used to be only two movies I knew of where the art made for the movie was any good.  But Moon/Sixpence also has some good painting. It's specifically avoided until the end of the movie when it appears in technicolor, meant to be a stunning change from the previous black/sepia and white.

Have to agree with you if you are saying art in the movies is mostly puerile, just like the architecture in certain films supposedly being of innovative character is not, as in The Fountainhead. The life of Gaughin with his conventional beginnings and staid existence and then his flight from wife to island paradises is definitely a tale worth filming and The Moon and Sixpence was done well. Probably helped that it was taken from a Maugham book but Hollywood was known to mess with even his tales and change whole situations according to their whims.

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This talk of having an art work purposely commissioned for a film and that in most cases not seen as of higher quality, reminds me of one of the funnier episodes of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

 

Anyone here remember that one, and in which the plot of it consisted of Marie Barone(Doris Roberts) beginning to fancy herself an artist(sculptor in this case, and her "masterpiece" shown below), and hilarity ensues when nobody wants to tell her where she might have found her "inspiration" for it?

 

finch4-5-10-1.jpg

 

I always especially loved the part in this one where her husband Frank(Peter Boyle) walks up to it in admiration and says, "Now, I may not know anything about art but I know what I like, and I gotta say I just can't take my eyes off of this!", and perhaps only topped by Marie's later comment and after finally being told what everyone else thinks her creation looks like..."Oh my god! I'm a lesbian!"

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  • 1 month later...

Song of Songs (1933) tonight is a forgotten romance triangle movie with Marlene Dietrich, and for good reason.  There's not much in it worth wasting your time on.  Except Miss Dietrich is always fascinating to watch, and as the romantic lead, played by Brian Aherne, is a sculptor, there sculpture to see in his studio, and some of it's good.  The movie has been discussed at length in an article here:  

 

https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc53.2011/FellemanDecayAura/2.html

 

so I won't need to go on at length about it, just reproduce a few photos and make a few observations.  The movie's story centers around an artist who finds his Muse in human form (hm, where have we heard that before?), who then with her as his model creates his Great Work, or a Great Work.  The Work here in question is a statue of the musette:

 

12ScarpittaSong.jpg

 

Racy, even for it's time, but this is a theme the movie plays with.  As Lily (Dietrich) is coaxed into the studio, and eventually into undress, the camera quick-pans/cuts from her at various stages of disrobing to the appropriate part of a sculpture in the studio; teasing and toying with us while giving us something less satisfying than what we were looking forward to.  As for the statue itself, I find it for all its spiritual elevation, a little awkward, and off-balance.  Maybe evoking distantly the Archaic style of ancient Egypt, with a modern consciousness.  This is surprising, seeing as is was done by a bona fide sculptor of note, and a really good one, too--Salvatore Cartaino Scarpitta.  I know this because other of his works appear in Waldow's (Aherne) studio.  Like this:

 

22SongTransition.jpg

 

a sculpture of the artist's wife, reminiscent for me of Michelangelo's Slave sculptures, the figure emerging from a rough background, and displaying similar posture and sinuosity.

 

The rest of the works in the studio are a mishmash of different styles and quality, some by known artists, and some that seemingly were grabbed by the art director from the Paramount warehouse.  They range from what look like reproductions of Classic bronze sculptures (though by someone who had little idea of the style), to abstract statues that are a too modern for the time period of the movie:

 

20SongBronzes.jpg

 

Notice the fig leaf.  Evidently, there were some parts, or one part, of the anatomy that couldn't be shown, even in a statue.

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Song of Songs (1933) tonight is a forgotten romance triangle movie with Marlene Dietrich, and for good reason.  There's not much in it worth wasting your time on.  Except Miss Dietrich is always fascinating to watch, and as the romantic lead, played by Brian Aherne, is a sculptor, there sculpture to see in his studio, and some of it's good.  The movie has been discussed at length in an article here:  

 

https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc53.2011/FellemanDecayAura/2.html

 

so I won't need to go on at length about it, just reproduce a few photos and make a few observations.  The movie's story centers around an artist who finds his Muse in human form (hm, where have we heard that before?), who then with her as his model creates his Great Work, or a Great Work.  The Work here in question is a statue of the musette:

 

12ScarpittaSong.jpg

 

Racy, even for it's time, but this is a theme the movie plays with.  As Lily (Dietrich) is coaxed into the studio, and eventually into undress, the camera quick-pans/cuts from her at various stages of disrobing to the appropriate part of a sculpture in the studio; teasing and toying with us while giving us something less satisfying than what we were looking forward to.  As for the statue itself, I find it for all its spiritual elevation, a little awkward, and off-balance.  Maybe evoking distantly the Archaic style of ancient Egypt, with a modern consciousness.  This is surprising, seeing as is was done by a bona fide sculptor of note, and a really good one, too--Salvatore Cartaino Scarpitta.  I know this because other of his works appear in Waldow's (Aherne) studio.  Like this:

 

22SongTransition.jpg

 

a sculpture of the artist's wife, reminiscent for me of Michelangelo's Slave sculptures, the figure emerging from a rough background, and displaying similar posture and sinuosity.

 

The rest of the works in the studio are a mishmash of different styles and quality, some by known artists, and some that seemingly were grabbed by the art director from the Paramount warehouse.  They range from what look like reproductions of Classic bronze sculptures (though by someone who had little idea of the style), to abstract statues that are a too modern for the time period of the movie:

 

20SongBronzes.jpg

 

Notice the fig leaf.  Evidently, there were some parts, or one part, of the anatomy that couldn't be shown, even in a statue.

 

Nice write-up here, slayton. Must say though, I found the way the film played out and in particular director Mamoulian's work much less forgettable than you evidently did, and the camera work much more modern than its 1933 year of production would indicate.

 

(...oh, and instead as you suggested Lily's statue "evoking distantly the Archaic style of ancient Egypt", what came to my mind was more the thought that it evoked Nazi Germany state approved art)

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Nice write-up here, slayton. Must say though, I found the way the film played out and in particular director Mamoulian's work much less forgettable than you evidently did, and the camera work much more modern than its 1933 year of production would indicate.

 

(...oh, and instead as you suggested Lily's statue "evoking distantly the Archaic style of ancient Egypt", what came to my mind was more the thought that it evoked Nazi Germany state approved art)

 

 

That was an oversight in my post.  Yes, Dargo, the direction was very well done.  And kudos to Victor Milner for his cinematography.  What I was referring to was the story and the dialog, which is thoroughly ordinary.  Unfortunately, all the good things in this movie can't lift it above that.  As for the evoking, if there is any deriving from state sponsorship, it's more likely to come from fascist Italy.  But I'm sticking to my guns.  Scarpitta was a well-educated sculptor, fully aware of the history and evolution of Western sculpture.  Though I read in one place he was commissioned to do some work for the mussolini government early in it's tenure (and which I haven't seen a pic of), none of his work displays the italicized propagandistic styling of fascist art.  By that I mean all artwork of that type, if you can call it that, seems to be italicized, as every point made by it is emphasized

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So very many thanks for posting and including that fascinating article, Slaytonf. I was rather taken aback at this film, but figured it HAD to have been before those nasty censors came into the fold. There are some scenes there that really just blew me away. Being an artist myself, I've done some nudes, but to see this in a film from 1933... Wow. I enjoyed it. I fell asleep after the fire tho... Tired. I can only guess what happened at the end. Has this been shown on TCM before?

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So very many thanks for posting and including that fascinating article, Slaytonf. I was rather taken aback at this film, but figured it HAD to have been before those nasty censors came into the fold. There are some scenes there that really just blew me away. Being an artist myself, I've done some nudes, but to see this in a film from 1933... Wow. I enjoyed it. I fell asleep after the fire tho... Tired. I can only guess what happened at the end. Has this been shown on TCM before?

 

 

This was a TCM premiere.  It doesn't look like it's scheduled any time soon.  But it's available for viewing on YouTube.  In the search bar type in "song of songs 1933."

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  • 2 months later...

 It's been a while since Alias Nick Beal (1949) aired, but I only got around to addressing it today (it takes a bit of work for me to get pics here, so sometimes there's a delay).  In a movie in which art is only a background element, there are two startling exceptions.  They are the paintings on the walls of the apartment Mr. Beal gives to Donna Allen.  Let's see 'em:

 

a2yptf.png

 

qo9b1t.png

 

Two stark Surrealist landscapes.  All that's missing are some melting watches.  I'm intrigued by the association of Surreal art with the devil.  I'm also wondering if the filmmakers really expected their audience to recognize it.  The time the movie was made Surrealism hadn't penetrated our popular culture to the extent is has today.  Of course, Spellbound (1945) had been made four years earlier.  Maybe they picked up on that. Or maybe they thought the landscapes were just scary; barren, eerie, unsettling as they are.  Are they any good?  Well, I'm not so up on Surrealism.  It seems to me they were done by someone like me who set out to create something in the style, throwing in elements, searching for things non-sequitur, expecting they would add up to something, or evoke the emptiness, soullessness, and despair of modernism.  Or the emptiness, soullessness, and despair of modernism that somebody of the mainstream, feeling threatened by the challenge presented by unconventional thought would ascribe to it.

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In THE ART OF LOVE, Dick Van Dyke plays the same character as Gene Kelly in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS: a totally untalented painter who, in this story, takes the advice of his friend, James Garner, of pretending to be dead so his PINTARRAJOS=DAUBS will increase in value.

How bad are his paintings? Basically nothing more than counterfeits of the Parisian views of Maurice Utrillo; in fact they can't even be described as GOOD COUNTERFEITS of the Parisian views of Maurice Utrillo! :P  :P  :P  :P  :P

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Have to agree with you if you are saying art in the movies is mostly puerile, just like the architecture in certain films supposedly being of innovative character is not, as in The Fountainhead. The life of Gaughin with his conventional beginnings and staid existence and then his flight from wife to island paradises is definitely a tale worth filming and The Moon and Sixpence was done well. Probably helped that it was taken from a Maugham book but Hollywood was known to mess with even his tales and change whole situations according to their whims.

Not only was this a good movie but George Sanders was very good in this role as well  George is so terribly underappreciated by so many but he is perfect for this role.

 

As for art in movies, nothing gives me more pleasure than Pierce Brosnan gallivanting through the Metropolitan Museum in the THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.   I actually liked it better than the original.

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Not only was this a good movie but George Sanders was very good in this role as well  George is so terribly underappreciated by so many but he is perfect for this role.

 

As for art in movies, nothing gives me more pleasure than Pierce Brosnan gallivanting through the Metropolitan Museum in the THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.   I actually liked it better than the original.

 

 Anyone that underappreciates George Sanders hasn't seen many of his films but he was in so many fine films giving spot-on performances in each.   

 

Yes,  the Met is well featured in the Brosnan version of the Thomas Crown Affair.     

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Has anybody here mentioned the "art" created by those machines that PAUL NEWMAN's character in WHAT A WAY TO GO  used?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

That is a great example of art in movies but like you, I would put that specific 'art' in quotes.   :lol:

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