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  Moderns, The Once You Can Fake Sincerity, You Have It Made
Year: 1988
Director: Alan Rudolph
Stars: Keith Carradine, Linda Fiorentino, Wallace Shawn, Geneviève Bujold, Geraldine Chaplin, Kevin J. O'Connor, John Lone, Charlélie Couture, Elsa Raven, Ali Giron, Gailard Sartain, Michael Wilson, Robert Gould, Antonia Dauphin, Véronique Bellegarde
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The place, Paris, the year, 1926, and the artist Nick Hart (Keith Carradine) is struggling to get his career off the ground, having reached the age of 33 without much to show for it professionally. Currently he makes a meagre living as a cartoonist for his friend, the Tribune columnist known as Mr Oiseau (Wallace Shawn), who when he meets him today in a restaurant is complaining about his contract which he wishes to be let go from, only his bosses are refusing. What he really wants to do is live in Hollywood where he believes a very decent living can be made penning scripts, and invites Hart to go along with him, but the artist has noticed someone in the establishment who he would like to get to know a lot better...

She is Rachel Stone (Linda Fiorentino) and the wife of a wealthy and ruthless businessman, Bertram Stone (John Lone), who has been rumoured to have killed a man at some point in his dealings, possibly with his bare hands judging by his enthusiasm for the physical. Does Hart particularly want to get between this couple? Not exactly, but he does want to meet with Rachel, for a very good reason that he used to be married to her himself, but even that may not be as it seems in a film obsessed with the appearance of truth (or verisimilitude, Rachel’s new word) and how it differs from the actual truth, which then again may not matter so much when most will be content to believe the lies.

This tied in with the art world because of that curious arrangement where a high price can be agreed upon for a painting when it's merely an aggregation of opinion that indicates it's worth anything at all, and Alan Rudolph and John Bradshaw's script was unsure, or sceptical at most, to the degree of validity that held. The screenplay was stuck in production hell for over a decade before director Rudolph got it made, and at one point was being trumpeted as the most rejected script around, much to Rudolph's chagrin though he never doubted for a second that it would not be completed, and so it was his faith in his own work was more convincing that the faith his lead character had in his.

With a film obsessed with fakes and fakery, it’s strange that it posited Hart as an ambassador of what was authentic in the art world, throwing up occasional real life creative types like Ernest Hemingway (Kevin J. O'Connor as a caricature of the writer more than a convincing person) or Gertrude Stein (Elsa Raven as an intellectual bully) to mingle with Hart and his associates. Marry that to a decidedly woozy atmosphere as the personalities drifted through the setbound appearance of the film like ghosts of the past (there were linking montages of vintage clips, black and white naturally) and you had an experience as if the plot were working its way through a hangover, or trying its damnedest to get if not hammered, then at least drunk enough to not care anymore.

The main plot adopted two threads, one, the pursuit of Rachel by Hart who he hates to see with Stone, and two, Hart's hiring by patron Nathalie De Ville (Geraldine Chaplin) to create what she calls copies of valuable paintings she owns but are in fact what the law would call forgeries. He will be paid, but the thought of making money from work that essentially closely imitates other, better known artists instead of making his name as a creator in his own right is another prompt for him to feel the soul-destroying pressure that mixing with the Parisian intellectuals will bring, even more so when his peers don't feel as if he is up to their lofty ideals and quality. Geneviève Bujold showed up as a gallery owner who tries and fails to sell Hart's art, and Wallace Shawn underlined the whole fakery theme when he takes a major decision that encapsulates both the hypocrisy the taste setters display, but also why they mattered, a tricky balancing act that often came across as arch and smug. In the main, though, a fairly pleasing exercise. Music by Mark Isham.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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