It’s heartening what beautiful locations can do for middling films: fine scenery has a way of sweeping us away from creeping mediocrity and ennui.
Director Giuseppe Capotondi’s art world thriller The Burnt Orange Heresy offers an especially good illustration of this cinematic saving grace.
Soon after the film’s enigmatic and saucy opening, we’re transported from downtown Milano to the idyllic beauty of Lake Como, where we mercifully loiter for much of the flick.
The strangely enigmatic, yet charismatic, art critic James Figueras (Claes Bang) and his instantaneous American lover Berenice Hollis (rising Aussie star Elizabeth Debicki, who’s just landed a role playing Princess Diana in The Crown) travel north to the opulent lakeside villa of powerful art collector, Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger).
Their host reveals he is the patron of Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland), a renowned but reclusive painter who hasn’t exhibited his works for decades, but lives and works hidden away on the grounds of the sprawling Cassidy estate.
The art collector has a simple request – for James to pinch a Debney masterpiece from the unsuspecting artist’s studio.
As the couple spend time with the amiable but mocking Debney, they start to realise that nothing about him or their assignment is what it seems.
They soon enter a tangled web of confusion and sinister intrigue. Figueras is a man of dark ambition and he will do anything, from arson and burglary to worse, in order to further his career and fortunes. He gets a tad creepy and Berenice, an innocent Minnesotan no less, cops the brunt of it.
The acting is so-so, the plot and direction leave a bit to be desired (some of it bordering on rather silly), and the location lovely, as noted.
Jagger’s debonair and impish character provides some cheeky dialogue, but always looks as if he’s about to strut up to the mike for a rendition of Sympathy for the Devil. He looked the same in Ned Kelly, even with the armour on.
Nonetheless, in a time when we’re Covid-confined in our hometowns, unable to travel to exotic locales, this noir dalliance in lovely Lombardy provides a soupcon of engaging escapism.
Now showing at Luna Cinemas, Leederville, and The Windsor, Nedlands.
Watch the trailer…