Dir: Mary Harron | Wri: John C Walsh | Cast: Sir Ben Kingsley, Christopher Briney, Barbara Sukowa, Suki Waterhouse, Rupert Graves, Andreja Pejic, and Ezra Miller | Canada Drama 97′
Ben Kingsley is sensational as Salvador Dalí, pictured in his later years in this enjoyable classically-styled biopic from Canadian filmmaker Mary Harron and her writer John C Walsh.
Set in New York and Spain in 1974, the thrust is not so much the artist’s work but his fascinating obsession with his wife and muse Gala (Sukowa) whom he describes as: “the secret within my secret”. Seen through the inexperienced eyes of the bland and pasty-faced James (Briney), the focus then shifts to this young assistant keen to make his name in the art world, who is helping the eccentric and mercurial Dalí prepare for a big gallery show, although his credentials for the post are never explained. Ultimately, the naive James feels disillusioned by the experience – but we wouldn’t expect anything else; such is the ephemeral nature of artistic genius.
The legendary surrealist often takes a backseat in favour of this far less intriguing cypher who somehow finds himself on the receiving end of all the female attention – even from Gala – who is styled as a sexually voracious virago whose profligate nature puts her marriage under strain, although the quixotic Dali remains in denial of her faults til the end.
Kingsley is perfect for the role with his dark, exotic features (he would also make a great Louis XIV). Not unexpectedly, his Dali comes across as mercurial, quaintly timid and vulnerable, but always dignified, a rather curious classical stringed score accompanying his painting interludes rather than something more avant-garde and zany. But Marcel Zyskind certainly captures the strange and whimsical quality of the artist’s nature with his deft camerawork and some magical lighting effects in a nighttime sequence on the beach in Cadaques, Catalonia.
Dali’s other acolytes in this engaging shag-fest include Ginesta, a sinuous Suki Waterhouse, Amanda Lear (Pejic) and Rupert Graves’ Captain Moore, a financier and the voice of reason who frets over the Dalis’ extravagant lifestyle. MT