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Occasionally a movie will wash up on the shores of the video island that is Netflix Instant, and despite never having heard of it, you watch it. Most of the time it's rubbish. Netflix has some very strange metrics that determine what you like.* As best I can tell this movie was picked for me because I watch movies about art, and a movie with Adam Goldberg in it. This one time, a point to Netflix, because this was spot on. Just this once though Netflix, because I'm still mad about Easy A, which was sheer dreck.
So anyway. (Untitled). A film title that is very hard to google, since the volume of searchable art with the title (Untitled) clogs up the internet pipes. It came out in 2009, and I never heard anything about it. Which is simply crazy pants, because all my art buddies talk about Art School Confidential and we love it like we love our slightly demented relatives, simply because it's ours, filled with in-jokes, part of the family, despite the poor pacing and slightly off performances.
I think there's a world of things I could say about Adam Goldberg. I adore him, for his willingness to be so completely unlovable. People compare him to Woody Allen all the time, but there's a crucial difference. Woody Allen was born looking like the scrotum of an elephant. (Don't google that. I did, and it turns out elephants don't have a scrotum, but there are still some choice images on the web under "elephant's scrotum")**. So Woody Allen didn't exactly have a choice in life. He could never have been Ryan Gosling or Robert Redford. Adam Goldberg on the other hand is a very attractive man. He is tall with a sexy face and from 2 Days In Paris, you know he could do shirtless scenes if he were willing to wax himself up (Wax himself down?). Basically the man has talent and looks, instead of just neurosis and an inappropriate relationship with his stepdaughter. That he chooses so consistently to make unknown little films in which he plays demented man of the aughts to the hilt, is impressive at least to me. But I think I might be the only person on the planet who thinks 2 Days in Paris is the most brilliant romantic film ever.
(Untitled) makes great use of Goldberg's patented scowl. Goldberg is a (all the other reviews I've seen are calling him an avant-garde composer) what I'm going to call an abstract musician. He makes these crazy "music" pieces full of chains falling in a bucket, and sobbing women, that are pretty detestable. Meanwhile his brother is a painter who makes tons of money as a commericially successful painter of circles that hang by the dozens in hotel lobbies. Both Goldberg's character and his brother end up intersecting with the world of visual art, through the brother's dealer, played by Marley Shelton, who looks distractingly like Heather Graham. What draws Golberg to Shelton is her noisy clothing, which he wants to feature in one of his pieces.
The plot is a good little plot. I'm not going to spoil it by talking too much about it, but in the limited time frame of the movie, they really do skewer all sides of the art world- the commercial parts, the bullshit parts, and the mystifying parts. There's a taxidermy artist who seems like a blatant Damien Hirst shoutout, and what facebook tells me are real Murakami and Christopher Wool pieces hiding above and next to the bed.
At the same time, the movie isn't mean, and that's why its so very good. Just like there's real art mixed into the prop art in the movie, there's some real love for art mixed in with the legitimate exasperation. In between the horrifying and uncomfortable "compositions" that Goldberg's character makes, there's some really beautiful attention to sound happening. I would describe myself as much more interested in visual art than sound, but over the course of the movie, I found myself really listening to the sounds. The movie does a subtle job of drawing you in with a premise that the main character makes music that can't be borne or listened to, and then the bait in switch happens where you become so very conscious to the sounds going on around the action, that you actually listen to the whole thing as a soundtrack, and then like a mobius strip, there you are, proving his point.
The movie even manages to give just about everyone a happy ending, and yet makes no one a hero. That may make it one of the first movies I've seen about an artist that doesn't take a delicious pleasure in seeing the main character turn into an alcoholic/wifebeating/cheating/evil person, requiring that the artist become a martyr and take a well deserved fall, to be worthy of our approval in the end.
So watch (Untitled), because if nothing else, you already read this far in my review, so I know you have time to kill.
*I've got a particular bone to pick with the "separate but equal" policy they apply to movies starring a non-white cast. If you watch one rom-com with black main characters, Netflix instant will give you a recommendation pile called something totally BS like, "urban romantic comedies (here's a hint: "urban" is a code word for "Not WHITE!!"). Heaven forbid they stop segregating the rom-coms. Then I might just judge them on artistic merits alone, instead of the average skin tone of the leads. Luckily once you watch two more movies with white leads, the "urban" movies get dropped. In case you can't tell, this is what my seething rage sarcasm sounds like.
P.S. This particular white girl really liked "I'm Through With White Girls". It's about a man coming to terms with commitment and his excuses. I was reminded a bit of High Fidelity, but this came with a much sexier pair of leads and an amazing scene showcasing the world's worst dancing ever.
** Pretty sure my girl C caused me to think of the term elephant scrotum.