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  • To search for a review, click the three bold horizontal lines near the upper left corner.  In the search box, enter the movie’s title, or director, or screenwriter, or principal actor, or opening date, or even a key word.  Reviews by Harvey Karten are from select movies from February 2017 to the present.

BEN IS BACK – movie review

BEN IS BACK

Roadside Attractions/ Lionsgate
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Peter Hedges
Screenwriter:  Peter Hedges
Cast:  Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance, Kathryn Newton, Rachel Bay Jones
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 10/16/18
Opens: December 7, 2018

Climate change, the economy, immigration, wars—these are global problems that cannot be solved by one country alone.  But the opioid epidemic, the thousands of deaths yearly from overdosing on prescription drugs; that appears to be a problem largely within our own United States.  The pundits and the medical community are not sure why this is so, but people of all ages have become devastated by a problem that they brought upon themselves, perhaps by being too trusting of the doctors who prescribe Oxycodone, Vicodin, Percocet and the like, all legal pharmaceuticals that should be used sparingly if at all to avoid dependence and addiction.

Substance abuse could be treated as a documentary, but more interestingly, Peter Hedges’ “Ben is Back” does the job of being both didactic and entertaining, however morbid the subject matter.  The action takes place in upstate New York (filmed largely in Nyack and Yonkers), centering on Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) and his mom Holly Burns (Julia Roberts).  If you can picture Julia Roberts living in the ‘burbs, wearing an apron, and being married to an overly formal and strict husband, you can ride with the show.  In fact what gives the picture is heft is a stellar performance only somewhat by Julia Roberts but in this case more by the upcoming Lucas Hedges, who is the writer-director’s son and who has appeared winningly as Jared in “Boy Erased,” a splendid take-down of the Christian Right’s rooting for gay conversion therapy to convert homosexuals into what they consider normal people.  Never mind that it doesn’t work while it seeks to change identities that people have from the time they are born.

Ben is about twenty years old (Hedges is 22) and had spent the last 77 days in an expensive program to convert him from an opioid addict into someone who can carry on a normal life without the sickness and expense of a drug dependency.  Unlike conversion therapy, the treatment for addicts can work, though I’ve heard it said that you can be “clean” for even 30 years and yet become newly attracted to the very medications that have driven both you and your loved ones crazy.

On Christmas Eve, Ben, the family’s black sheep, comes home to celebrate the holidays, though his arrival has taken his mother, Holly (Julia Roberts), his sister Ivy (Kathryn Newton) and his stepfather Neal (Courtney B. Vance) by surprise.  Thinking that he should not be spending even a day away from the institution, the family are properly concerned about the visit.  And they should be.  During the course of Christmas, already a season that drives quite a few people into depressive states, Ben will run into old friends and acquaintances, including the drug seller for whom he had operated as a runner and a fellow addict desperate for money to buy a fix and relieve his sickness.

Holly shows her tough love for the young man by insisting that he never leave her sight. She watches him while he is urinating, she hides her jewelry and every kind of pill that he might experiment with, and sits behind him at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting where the members applaud him for being sober for 77 days.

The movie is filled with melodramatic moments when a home burglary leads to the kidnapping of the family Cairn terrier, who has been taken from the home for purposes other than a cash ransom.  When Lucas steals his mother’s car, the story ends with a frantic chase, by which time Holly realizes that her son cannot be trusted for even an hour outside of her presence.

The end credits tell us where to go if you or someone you know has a substance abuse problem, but didacticism is hardly the principal purpose.  Perhaps the awards-worthy performance of young Lucas Hedges might be the principal reason for attending a screening, a solid detective story, a coming of age tale, and a dramatic look at why Christmas is not always a time for rejoicing.

103 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

THE FRONT RUNNER – movie review

THE FRONT RUNNER

Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Jason Reitman
Screenwriter:  Matt Bai, Jay Carson, Jason Reitman, based on the book “All the Truth is Out” by Matt Bai
Cast:  Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Mamoudou Athie, Josh Brener, Bill Burr, Oliver Cooper
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 10/15/18
Opens: November 6, 2018
The Front Runner Movie Poster
People in power are chick magnets.  Their influence can be in music, politics, Hollywood, business, finance.  It seems not to matter whether the magnet is rich or not as long as he is well known, with a publicized career.  Being a chick magnet turned out to be quite bad for Gary Hart, but even worse for the United States.  If Hart kept his pants zipped, here’s what would have happened.  George H.W. Bush would not have been elected because Hart would have creamed him in both popular vote and the electoral college.  With the elder Bush out of the picture, George W. Bush, i.e. his legacy son Dubya, would not have been even nominated.  Hart would have enjoyed two terms, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would not have happened, the Supreme Court would be firmly progressive, and Trump would continue with his life bilking the public with his university and stiffing his workers on his buildings.  Hillary would be president now.

This is all possible, but who knows?  The public is fickle.  The American people did not know or care that FDR, LBJ, and JFK were having affairs outside of marriage.  The three were elected, in part because winning World War 2 and getting out of the Great Depression were more important to us than what Roosevelt did privately in his wheelchair.  Nowadays the public seems not to care much about the most womanizing president in history, one who dismisses what he has said about women as “locker room talk.”  But between the events in administrations from the sixties and the who-cares attitude of even Evangelicals nowadays was a flurry of puritanism.  Gary Hart lost the nomination to Walter Mondale in 1984, though in 1988 he was 12 points ahead of his nearest rival, Dukakis and could have beaten Bush.  Thanks to the sneakiness of the press, particularly the Miami Herald—which caught Hart spending the night with model Dona Rice in his Washington digs and also sitting on his lap during a yacht party—he was rejected by the voters and had to withdraw from the campaign.

In Jason Reitman’s “The Front Runner,” Gary Hart is played by handsome Hugh Jackman, with a thick head of graying hair; his wife Oletha “Lee” Hart, by Vera Farmiga, his campaign manager Bill Dixon, by J.K. Simmons, and Donna Rice, the model who ruined his presidential chances, by Sara Paxton.  An assortment of folks, almost all men, represent the Miami Herald and the Washington Post.

The opening is done in the style of Robert Altman’s “Nashville,” an assortment of people talking over each other, in a confusing array of jabbering.  The audience cannot be blamed for longing for a scene that focuses on a few people and one journal as was done successfully by Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” but then, you don’t find a director like Spielberg everywhere.  For his part, Montreal-born director Jason Reitman, whose best picture “Up in the Air,” dealt with a guy hired to travel the country firing workers, now takes on the media, responsible for firing what would have been the next president.

In scenes involving just two people, Gary and his wife Lee, you would not be faulted for thinking of Hillary and Bill who, like Hart and Lee remained married despite their men’s being in heat at the wrong times.  The most outrageous scene takes place outside Hart’s Washington D.C. home (his wife stayed behind in their Colorado home) where reporters sneaked into his garden, watched Donna Rice entering, but not did not see her leaving.  They therefore assumed that Rice spent the night, which is doubtless what they wanted to believe, since sex sells papers.  Though Hart, as furious as Brett Kavanaugh in denying wrongdoing, insists that Rice left by the back door, nobody is convinced.

Hart made two mistakes. He challenged journalists to follow him everywhere as though to prove he was a choir boy—and of course he wouldn’t be doing anything risqué during that period).  He also insisted, however accurately, that what he did in his home was none of anyone’s business, though one reporter challenged him by saying that the country looked for a leader with a code of sexual morality—which would be news to the Trump campaign.

For all we know, the studio has entered “The Front Runner” into this year’s awards competition, perhaps thinking that the audience for “The Post” would also lift this movie’s success in both the box office and in critics’ writings.  The principal fault is that Reitman does not focus on a single point, such as “the intrusiveness of the media in things that should not concern them,” of “the way Hart’s relationship with his wife changed, if at all,” or “the nature of the individual who becomes a magnet for the opposite sex and simply cannot keep it zipped even when on the cusp of winning the presidency.”  Blame the media if you will, or even the American public for being concerned about the wrong things.  Certainly Hart was his own worst enemy.

The film should be seen not only by people who lived through the campaign of 1988 but by those who don’t know Hart from George Washington.  It’s a pleasure to see Hugh Jackman in a serious role—particularly if you knew him only for “The X-men,” “Wolverine” and “Logan.”  One of Jackman’s favorite quotes is “Everything is like stepping stones, and I’ve seen people I admire falter.” Prescient words.  Jackman shows a fairly wide range of emotions successfully: sometimes reacting with justifiable anger, other times convincing us that if elected, Hart would have been able to implement his democratic ideals about the economy.  Vera Farmiga has so much class as Hart’s wife versus the bimbo-ish and juvenile attitude of Sara Paxton’s Donna Rice (despite her graduating from college Phi Beta Kappa), that you may wonder what sort of idiot would threaten that relationship along with the presidency for a roll in another barn’s hay.  Filming was in Georgia, particularly Atlanta, Savannah and Stone Mountain Park.  The screenplay adapts Matt Bai’s book “A the Truth is Out,” available on Amazon for under $14.

113 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B-
Overall – B

CHANGE IN THE AIR – movie review

CHANGE IN THE AIR

Screen Media Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Dianne Dreyer
Screenwriter:  Audra Gorman
Cast:  Mary Beth Hurt, Aidan Quinn, Peter Gerety, M. Emmet Walsh, Rachel Brosnahan, Macy Gray, Olympia Dukakis
Screened at: Dolby24, NYC, 10/4/18
Opens: October 19, 2018

There’s a ghost in Dianne Dreyer’s movie, but “Change in the Air” has nothing to do with Halloween.  Nobody gets stabbed, hacked, beheaded, shot, guillotined, or drawn and quartered. True, one old guy gets run down by a car, but no problem.  He comes back to life, only to painlessly die of a heart stoppage.  The only horror in the pic is the suburban community, a quiet place where doors are unlocked, neighbors barge in, mail is delivered on time, the cops are unlikely to ticket the neighbors they know.  In fact it is so quiet and peaceful that I’m reminded of the best in line (not an exact quote) in this year’s best drama so far, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (Melissa McCarthy in an Oscar-worthy performance), “He died, Or moved to the suburbs.  I can’t tell the difference.” Don’t see this movie one day after you see the McCarthy gem.  “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” will make much of what follows mediocre or, in the case of “Change in the Air,” pretty terrible.

As Wren, Rachel Brosnahan is ideally cast since the young actress is an ethereal presence with her light blue eyes and her light clothing and face so white you might holler at the screen “Just put on a sheet as long as you insist on playing a ghost.”  We may wonder why she’s hiding from the police, who knock on her door only to find her hiding in the house (even though she presumably could disappear or turn into a bird).  Her next-door neighbor Jo Ann Bayberry (Mary Beth Hurt) tells her ornithologist husband Arnie Bayberry (Peter Gerety) that she’s lovely—three or four times.  Since Wren receives a full bag of mail daily, Jo Ann wonders whether she’s a speed-reader. She can’t resist allying with Josh (Satya Bhabha), the local postman, convincing him to join her in stealing a couple of letters and reading them.  The only person who is not nosy, Walter Lemke (M. Emmet Walsh), spends the movie time sitting and manspreading in a chair on the lawn.  No dialogue from him, which is fine.

It’s no secret that Alison (Rachel Zeiger-Haag), Jo Ann’s daughter, had passed away since, of course Wren knows all.  The only real conflict finds Moody (Aidan Quinn), the cop, arguing with the pharmacist who does not want to fill his script because it’s 6.01p and the pharmacy division closes at 6.

How does Wren shake up the town and wake up people who would come to life in an apartment in a thriving metropolis?  If it’s by a quick scene of magic realism in the end, I guess that would qualify.  If it’s another action, I must have missed it by dozing for the wrong half-minute.  If you read this carefully, you’ll know the antidote, one that will shake you up and maybe have the same effect on the suburban town.  Go see “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”  It will restore your faith in the movies.

94 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – D
Acting – B-
Technical – B-
Overall – C-

THE GUILTY – movie review

THE GUILTY (Den skyldige)

Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Gustav Möller
Screenwriter:  Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen
Cast:  Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Omar Shargaw
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/9/18
Opens: October 19, 2018
Jakob Cedergren in Den skyldige (2018)
What’s your worst computer repair nightmare?  If you’re anything like me, you need your computer.  You can’t live without it whether for work or for keeping up with your friends.  When it breaks down, you probably could not survive without a service agreement, but then, when you call for action, you’re on hold for 20 minutes, you then get a responder who gets your name and other details, you’re switched to the techie, and you wonder why the Dell or HP or Lenovo did not hire someone from Nebraska who speaks English like you and who can therefore get with the program quickly. And then, to boot, you’re disconnected.  This is the dilemma facing Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren).  It’s not that this police officer in Denmark needs a techie.  In fact things are even more hairy.  He is a desk cop assigned to emergency help, a demotion because he is himself on trial for overstepping police boundaries.  He is on the phone almost all the time, just like you with your computer repair person.  He brings his demons to the phone calls and this time in an effort to redeem himself after what he did, he oversteps boundaries once again.  Now, however, he is doing the right thing and might even get enough of a commendation to receive a mere slap on the wrist for his other alleged crime.

“The Guilty” is Denmark’s candidate for the Oscar for films opening in 2018, an unusual choice since the story is a one-man show with others thrown in, either the guy’s partners in the police precinct or voices on the phone.  In a story that obeys the three classical unities—time, space, plot all within 24 hours—Asger is so wrapped up in the panic of one caller that he voluntarily stays overtime to make sure the case is resolved.  After laughing off a caller who complains that a woman had mugged him of his cash and credit cards, Asger realizes that the fellow is in a red light district, clearly shown on the computer that the police use for immediate tracking.  He also finds little use to continue talking to someone who fell off his bike, scrapes his knee, and asks for an ambulance.  Then, everything happens.

Asger speaks with a tearful, frightened woman, Iben (Jessica Dinnage) who claims to have been kidnapped by her ex.  He is connected with the alleged kidnapper Michael (Johan Olsen), with a girl aged 6 years 9 months, Mathilde (Katinka Evers-Jahnsen) and others.  He tries to piece together the elements, horrified to find out that a baby has been killed, cut open by Michael before the kidnapping.  You may wonder why Michael would allow Iben to keep her cell phone while she is in the trunk of the kidnapper’s car, but all will become clear by the conclusion.

This is a nail-biter, unusual in that all the action takes place inside a police station with the principal character in every frame—not almost every frame, but every one, his emotions carefully filmed by Jasper Spanning under Gustav Möller’s direction, who shares the writing honors with Emil Nygaard Albertsen.  Möller, who previously contributed TV episodes to another police drama “Follow the Money” a.k.a. “Bedrag,” this time hopes that for his freshman full-length entry he can get a movie audience that does not require their thrillers to involve visceral action but rather for people who can appreciate good writing and authentic acting.  “The Guilty” could easily fit into the format of a one-man theatrical show or even a radio drama such as the kind that riveted the generation of the 1940s such as “The Shadow,” “The FBI in Peace and War,” and “The Green Hornet.”

87 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B-
Overall – B

ON HER SHOULDERS – movie review

ON HER SHOULDERS

Oscilloscope Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Alexandria Bombach
Screenwriter:  Alexandria Bombach
Cast:  Nadia Murad, Murad Ismael
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/9/18
Opens: October 19, 2018

When President Trump viewed pictures on TV of the children killed by Bashar al-Assad’s chemical or biological weapons, he exclaimed “Let’s kill that f—er.”  Earlier than that, during the campaign, he assured the American people that he would wipe ISIS off the map.”  Admittedly the terrorist group has suffered losses, having to move out almost completely from its bunker in Syria, but that has not stopped the group from killing, maiming, enslaving and raping the Yazidi minority in Northern Iraq.  As Nadia Murad, the focus of Alexandria Bombach’s doc “On Her Shoulders,” points out, in her village of Sinjar, the older men and children were destroyed, the women held captives as sex slaves.  One of these women, Ms. Murad, escaped from her captors through a door accidentally left open, was taken in by some of her countrymen, and eventually became the principal spokesperson for the crimes committed by ISIS; a genocide, in effect.  Missing in “On Her Shoulders” is the way its principal subject managed to be swept away from her country to become the leading advocate for information on the genocide committed by ISIS.

For Alexandria Bombach, directing, manipulating the lenses and editing  “On Her Shoulders,” this is her sophomore full-length feature after her 2015 picture “Frame by Frame,” a personal look at four photographers in Afghanistan.  Her present subject, Nadia Murad, received the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize and wrote a book about her dreadful experiences, “The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight against the Islamic State.”  Since embarking on a whirlwind tour of seventeen countries, lobbying for funding to help the people left behind and petitioning the U.N. General Assembly to conduct a full investigation of the war crimes, this woman has given up the chance to live the life of a normal, pretty woman in her early twenties but relishes her role in the public eye.  This is not to say that despite her generally stoic composure she never lets loose with tears whenever describing her own rape and her witnessing of the mass murder and enslavement of her people.  Bombach captures the subject’s emotions in close-up and in shots that find Nadia addressing a full session of the General Assembly, wearing a headphone to receive translations into Kurdish and Arabic wherever necessary.

She teamed up with Murad Ismael, a founder of Yazda, which is a group advocating for the Yazidis.  The two cry out for no more talk and a lot more action, and perhaps their championing of the fight to destroy ISIS has met with some success, given the aforementioned displacement of ISIS from most of Syria.

Bombach’s broad sweep takes us to refugee camps in Athens and Thessaloniki where Murad chats with Luis Moreno Campo, first prosecutor for the International Criminal Court.  We find that the refugees will likely be split up among countries willing to accept them just as some of the Lost Boys of Sudan were relocated to the U.S. The bad news is that the spreading out of the Yazidis among several countries could spell the end of the community whose half million followers will no longer be able continue the cultural traditions allowed in a single state.

Bombach edits carefully, merging several meetings and speeches of her brave and dignified subject, asking us in the movie audience to hear the same morbid story over and over—undoubtedly more wearying for Ms. Murad than for the target audience of progressives who will catch the documentary when it opens Oct. 19.  Traditional entertainment value embodying animation and special effects are absent, likely affecting word-of-mouth of the initial film audiences and discouraging those whose political literacy nonetheless requires flashes of melodrama.  We hope that more docs of this nature are in the works, particularly now when the Rohingya people are regularly persecuted by Myanmar’s military.

It’s the old story: during times of extreme nationalism, majorities in countries often consider smaller groups to be “the other.”  Yazidis in Iraq; Jews, Romani and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany, Armenians in Turkey in 1915, Muslims in 15th Century Spain.

94 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

THE CITIZEN – movie review

THE CITIZEN (Az állampolgár)

ArtMattan Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Roland Vranik
Screenwriter:  Iván Szabó, Roland Vranik
Cast:  Máté Haumann, Tünde Szalontay, Tibor Gáspár, Cake-Baly Marcelo, Agnes Mahr
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/13/18
Opens: July 6, 2018

Why do poor people support Trump in such great numbers?  Perhaps to them, what’s more important than wages is their xenophobic view that the U.S. should shut its doors to immigrants and should not allow women to have what’s euphemistically known as reproductive rights.  In other words, keep the foreigners out and the fetuses in.  While the U.S. is not Hungary and Budapest is not Birmingham, Roland Vranik’s film “The Citizen,” filmed in location in Budapest, deals with the plight of one immigrant from Guinea-Bissau who fled to the Eastern Europe country to escape the unending violence in his own African state.

Vranik, whose “Transmission” in 2009 deals with withdrawal pains brought about by the failure of digital devices to work, cuts back on the surrealism this time, portraying the woes of a black man seeking citizenship in a country that has not been known to be friendly to folks fleeing their homelands for better economic conditions or political asylum.  You might expect Hungarians to be haters since Wilson (Cake-Baly Marcelo) is not only different from most of them in appearance and culture, but the evidence on display supports the view that he is welcomed into the new land, getting a job as a security guard and even awarded a week at a spa for being employee of the year.  There is but one isolated case of a man’s calling him with the n-word and one seemingly impossible hurdle to jump when he fails a 3-panel query on Hungarian culture and is therefore turned down for citizenship.  Yet the panel is open to reversing itself and granting him the papers.  He is accepted in his Budapest neighborhood as well.

In fact Mari (Agnes Mahr) tutors him for the test, giving him tours of the city museums and monuments and correcting his surprisingly good Hungarian.  Her bond with the man turns romantic.  She leaves her husband and moves in with him not realizing that he already has a roommate—another asylum speaker, Shirin (Arghavan Shekari), who has fled from Iran and needs to find a local to marry her on paper so she can claim citizenship.

Because of the outstanding performances by the leads and the realistic look at a menage-a-trois (Mari, Shirin and Wilson), this is a film that could well be looked at during awards season, competing for best foreign language picture.  An American audience especially can relate to the story given the reactionary policies of the White House, particularly the hassles that the Republican party has been setting up to deny many eligible people the right to vote.  This spiritually fulfilling and highly entertaining drama, filled with moments of humor and a what-will-happen-next suspense should not be missed.

In Hungarian with English subtitles.

109 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – A
Technical – B+
Overall – A-

THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING – movie review

THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING

HBO Documentary Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Nathaniel Kahn
Screenwriter:  Nathaniel Kahn
Screened at: HBO, NYC, 9/26/18
Opens: October 19, 2018
The Price of Everything (2018)
Most people ignore high art as the playthings of the rich, going to museums only when they’re traveling because the Prado, the Louvre, the Vatican are the places to peruse and to take selfies to show your envious friends back home.  Even people who don’t know art from shinola have at least once expressed their bafflement at contemporary paintings, derogating them with “My five-year-old daughter can do that.”  This brings us to a big question: does a painting have value beyond what people are willing to pay for it, or does a painting sell for reasons that have nothing to do with its intrinsic quality?  Going further, is there even such a thing as intrinsic quality in a painting, or is it like gold, a useless metal that has a price only because people give it a price?

Philosophic questions of this nature abound in Nathaniel Kahn’s beautifully photographed documentary, consisting of statements by artists, collectors, dealers, auctioneers, and one art historian.  I recall that when I was a kid, the most expensive painting, “Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer” sold for two millions dollars, which nowadays is like chump change when at least one painting recently sold for $450 million.

Those who people Kahn’s doc are the one percent that we hear so much about in the Trump age.  Some are collectors who appreciate painting and sculpture.  Others are investing, which is not a bad idea if you know what you’re doing because at least one investor sold a painting for well over one hundred times what he paid for it.  Some buy art to keep up with the Joneses.  If your neighbor has a Poons, you’ve got to have another for your apartment or penthouse.

For me the most interesting scene takes place in New York’s Sotheby’s auction house where the smell of money is so strong you might be able to catch a whiff of its scent from your theater seat.  An auctioneer starts a work at one million and without a helluva lot of salesmanship gets the price raised so quickly that you might think he’s selling cattle for prices merely in the hundreds.

Some of the names dropped include Basquiat, Gerhard Richter, Jeff Koons, and Maurizio Cattelan whose works sell for millions.  Two people stand out from the rest.  One guy, the most approachable and down-to-earth is Stefan Edlis, a Vienna-born Holocaust survivor who three years ago donated $500 million to a museum in Chicago.  He even shows us a passport from the Nazi government with a big, blue “J” on the cover to denote his Jewishness.  Somehow he escaped from the slaughter as late as 1941, making his fortune here in America.  He focuses on pop art and has Roy Lichtenstein works in his bedroom.  Another is the diminutive Larry Poons, an abstractionist whose popularity soared during the 1960s, then declined, and then rose again as though it were an offering in the stock market that lucky people held onto when it fell and cashed out when it came back.  Of all the characters the people the documentary, he is the one who most clearly states that there is no relationship between the price of art and its real value (that is, if there is such a thing as real value).

Dealers, artists, collectors and art historians will be attracted to this movie, which was directed by Nathaniel Kahn–who has contributed other documentaries including the 2003 “My Architect”—trying to understand his architect father, Louis Kahn, who died bankrupt and alone in 1974 in a Pennsylvania Station restroom in New York.  And so will progressives and socialists: this will provide for them more ammunition to deflate our capitalist system which, in the case of art, seems to reward or denigrate people at random with little or no connection to any standard of value.

98 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+