Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Mar 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Fatal Abstractions

movie_untitled2Sly 'Untitled' skewers contemporary art/music scene

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. But for would-be culture vultures uncertain about their own taste, there are plenty of opportunists out there eager to show them where to look. This tension between true artistic value and hype, steak and sizzle, is the theme of Untitled, Jonathan Parker's wry satire on contemporary culture. Set in the rarefied milieu of new music and postmodern art, it deftly exposes the preciousness of young wannabee aesthetes desperately trying to impose the shock of the new and make their mark on an already jaded and overcrowded cultural landscape.

The film's title is itself a sly joke, the common designation in galleries for abstract or incomprehensible art pieces into which there is no other point of access for the viewer. Co-scripted by Parker and Catherine DiNapoli, the story revolves around two arty brothers in New York. Josh (Eion Bailey) paints big, colorful canvases punctuated by the occasional black dot; they're technically abstract, but in a quaint, old-fashioned way that vaguely recalls Joan Miró (without the graphic or intellectual content).

His brother, Adrian (Adam Goldberg) is a brooding composer of new music. The pieces he performs (in mostly empty venues) with his three-person trio involve extreme dissonance, random yelling, and percussive effects like a chain rattled across a metal bucket. Asked what audience he's trying to teach, he opines that “the marketplace is not the definition of culture,” and claims he doesn't want to be popular—at which he succeeds impressively. To pay the rent, he plays elevator music in a ritzy piano bar, where his playing is drowned out by customers' ringtones.

In the center of their aspirations—and the movie—is Madeleine (Marley Shelton), hip young proprietress of a Chelsea art gallery. With her severe blonde chignon, black leather skirts, and wardrobe of trendy eyeglasses (purely for fashion's sake, as the lenses are plain glass), she prides herself on her eye for the “edgy.” The minute she hears Adrian's ensemble, she convinces him the perfect venue is her gallery, where she champions such dubious conceptual artists as a raucous Brit (Vinnie Jones) whose scary assemblages involve taxidermic animals, and a wispy shut-in whose “art” pieces include a thumb tack, or a Post-it, stuck on the wall.

Madeleine also handles Josh's work, but it's so tame, she's embarrassed to hang it in the gallery. It's the only work that ever sells, however, so she deals it out of the back room like the commodity it is, to her one regular client, a woman who buys “peppy” art for hospitals. Thus, Parker sets the stage for ironic encounters, various romantic entanglements, and plenty of throwaway jokes on the state of the art biz. “Harmony is a capitalist plot to sell pianos,” grumps Adrian, proud that his music “isn't connected to life in any way.” (Asked what it is connected to, he has no answer.) One artist believes “art can be administrative,” meaning he has minions to actually create “his” work.

Parker's sharpest-running gag involves a clueless collector (Zak Orth) “who did something with a computer, and now he's rich.” Too unschooled to develop his own taste, he allows himself to be bullied by Madeleine into buying  a roomful of stuff he neither likes nor understands, convinced that “Collecting is all about expressing myself.” More to the point, he admits that when he talks about art at parties, “I don't seem like such a dull guy.”

Goldberg somewhat redeems himself for his obnoxious turn in Julie Delpy's 2 Days In Paris; at least his wary, comical curmudgeon Adrian is too morose to talk movie_untitledmuch. Shelton nails the über-gallerista who believes in art for notoriety's sake; she actually weeps when she's forced to hang a “commercial” show. And Parker provides a gentle epiphany when Adrian meets an old lion of an avant garde composer who clues him into the secret of art: “an artist must find meaning in the process.” What a concept.

UNTITLED ★★★ With Adam Goldberg, Marley Shelton, and Vinnie Jones. Written by Jonathan Parker and Catherine DiNapoli. Directed by Jonathan Parker. A Samuel Goldwyn release. Rated R. 96 minutes.

Watch movie trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Green Swell

Local surfboard company greens up the industry with an eco-conscious business model

 

Two Fish Bound by a Golden Cord

Until March 20, (Spring Equinox), Earth and her kingdoms (mineral, plant, animal, human) experience the influence of Pisces, sign of the World Savior. Whereas the task of Aquarius is as world server, the Pisces task is saving the world—tasks given to the two fishes. Pisces never really enters matter, and as the last sign of the zodiac includes all the signs. During Pisces, having gathered all the gifts of the previous 11 signs, it is a good time to prepare for new initiating plans when Aries (sign of beginnings) begins. No wonder Pisces, like Scorpio, is so difficult (both are ruled by Pluto, planet of death, new life, regeneration, transformations). Both signs (with Scorpio drowning in dark and deep waters) find life on Earth a hardship, disorienting (from the spiritual perspective), at times feeling betrayed. Life is a paradox, especially for Pisces. Each zodiacal sign represents and distributes a different phase and facet (12) of the Soul’s diamond light, Pisces is the “Light of Life itself, ending forever the darkness of matter.” It takes two fish to complete this work (creating eventually an extraordinary human being). One fish turned toward the material world (in order to understand matter), the other fish toward the heavenly world. Around the two fish is a silvery cord binding them together. The two fish are forever bound until all of humanity is redeemed (lifted up into the Light). This is the dedication of all world saviors (Buddha, Christ, the NGWS). Thus the sacrifice and suffering experienced by Pisces. Knowing these things about Pisces, let us help them all we can. Sometimes all of humanity is Pisces.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Seal Change

Celtic selkie lore comes alive in dazzling ‘Song of the Sea’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Teresa’s Gourmet Foods

New owners for Santa Cruz’s leading local salsa company

 

What defines a good dive bar?

It’s slightly dirty, and they serve cheap drinks. Stella Celeste, Santa Cruz, Barrista

 

Picchetti Winery

After enjoying its contents, I couldn’t throw away the empty bottle of Picchetti Winery’s Red Table Wine.

 

Happy Birthday, Manny

Manuel’s turns 50, farmers market steel head pairs with Pinot, and a Birichino Malvasia