Director Giuseppe Capotondi (The Double Hour) posits illusion against truth in an attractive setting with a cast that makes the proceedings alluring for a while.
The source is a Charles Willeford 1971 novel which may also remind some discerning folks of Patricia Highsmith transfers to the silver screen. Here Bang’s art critic/historian James Figueras (Jacques in the book) has an opportunity to capitalize on failed ambitions as an artist as he’s been displaying a certain knack for “the power of the critic” while on speaking engagements for U.S. tourists in Milan.
Jagger’s scenery-chewing urban dealer in Joseph Cassidy invites him to interview renowned and aloof Jerome Debney, an eccentric, if thoughtful Sutherland. From one of James’ talks comes a new worldly love interest in Berenice, endowed with some inscrutable flair and allure by the rising Debicki, who happens to be a school teacher from Duluth, Minnesota. Beyond the talking-head could be a way to procure one of his stashed reproductions. The strange title begins to crystallize as these disparate figures are around one another for a while.
Being around Cassidy’s Lake Como villa is easy on the eyes as this quartet is in various set-ups with plenty of discourse (the nature of art being a topic) that can make for a draggy pace especially in the midsection. Band and Debicki pretty much lead the way as hubris and a bit duplicitous baggage are essential for this narrative infrastructure.
It’s just that the adaptation of Scott B. Smith (A Simple Plan) adheres to formula when making a more ominous switch. Not that it really goes off the rails with bloodless strokes, but the Italian filmmaker doesn’t have the deft touch to be a deceptively compelling import, especially after support and visiting the studio. If the characters and story fail to engage in the final third you still might have been lured into a pretty profound experience. Notably when Sutherland and a cosmopolitan and dainty Debrnicki chew the fat.