Gustav Klimt lived his life like he painted it full of intensity, sensuality and passion. In this biographical fantasy by acclaimed director Raúl Ruiz (Time Regained
), Klimt (John Malkovich) recalls the decadence of his past in feverish visions from his deathbed. Reflecting on his many torrid affairs and his struggles for artistic freedom, he travels back to the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. There, Klimt is introduced to a mysterious dancer, Lea de Castro (Saffron Burrows), who emerges as his muse and the personification of his own erotic ideals and carnal desires.
Making-of Featurette, Original Theatrical Trailer
John Malkovich inhabits the role of dissolute artist Gustav Klimt so completely one almost expects to see his wild-eyed features reflected in Klimt's well-known painting The Kiss
. The story is a (very) loose biopic about the tortured life of the Austrian artist, whose deathbed ruminations begin the film and the flashbacks that begin to paint the portrait of his incredible, hedonistic life. Even in the relative freeness and sophistication of fin de siècle
Europe, Klimt and his fascination with the overtly erotic were bound to become lightning rods for high society, not to mention the self-protective Western art world. Yet Klimt declares (over and over), "I don't give a [bleep] what the critics think," and he begins to build his signature sensual paintings--and a growing grudging respect in his home country as well.
Malkovich is well matched by Saffron Burrows, who plays a witchy French dancer as committed to the idea, and expression, of free love as is the maestro. The film is especially noteworthy for its lush cinematography, which does remarkable justice especially to Klimt's famed "gold" paintings (of which The Kiss is still one of the most recognizable). The city of Vienna itself appears to be lit from within by a million golden candles. --A.T. Hurley