November 1, 2009
(Untitled) and Adam Goldberg
The biggest reason that I went to see (Untitled) is Adam Goldberg. It's promoted as a satiric look at the avant-garde art world, it got mixed reviews, and it's only playing at the Angelika, one of my least favorite movie theaters, but that Adam Goldberg is so funny and compelling in everything I've seen him in, even when he's playing a hapless grump who hates the world. Hell, especially when he's playing a hapless grump who hates the world.
Experimental art galleries and atonal concert music are tricky subjects for a comedy, but this movie really knows its stuff. Some of the performance scenes of Adam Goldberg's trio are straight out of one of the better Christopher Guest parodies, but what sets them apart is that these characters are completely unaware they're in a comedy. There's hardly any caricatures or winking at the camera, just people who genuinely believe in their music with non-melodic piano, clarinet, yowling, bubble wrap, and bucket. Though it reflects some of the experimental art out there that's meaningless hogwash, the movie also includes some really cool, beautiful music, which redeems it from getting too mean. All the music was composed by David Lang, who obviously has a sense of humor about his genre.
In the movie, a beautiful gallery owner falls for Adam Goldberg, so we see a lot of crazy conceptual art and the people who like to talk about it. There are some jabs at real artists, including a wildman English superstar specializing in taxidermy who's clearly based on Damien Hirst, played by Guy Ritchie standby Vinnie Jones. And there are references to Jake and Dinos Chapman's disturbing child mannequins with genitals attached to their heads and Robert Gober's legs coming out of a wall, and probably a lot of other stuff I didn't recognize. It's an easy field to make fun of, but the jokes are smart and subtle, and even if the people who collect these kinds of pieces can be gullible phonies, they're sort of sweet, too. It's good to see a satire with real, believable characters.
The rest of the cast is good too: there's Marley Shelton who played the doctor in Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, and Zak Orth, a hilarious comic actor from all the David Wain/Michael Showalter movies who plays an art collector more into the investment than the aesthetics ("Art does not look as good when it goes down in value.")
Now I've got to consummate my love for Adam Goldberg by finally seeing The Hebrew Hammer.
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