Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Woman in Gold

Year 8, Day 250 - 9/6/16 - Movie #2,445 

BEFORE: Ryan Reynolds carries over again from "The Croods", and I'm back on the art scene.  And the junction of where art meets World War II, kind of like in "The Monuments Men", only this takes place years later, showing what happened to some of the art that the Nazis stole.

THE PLOT:  Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

AFTER: There's no real suspense here, and not just because I usually catch a glimpse at the main plot points as I'm dubbing a film to DVD.  (I try not to look, but I have to make sure that the dub worked properly, and wasn't glitchy or had tracking problems...)  Does anyone really believe that the nice old Jewish woman isn't going to get her family painting back from the selfish Austrian museum?  Does anyone really think that the scrappy underdog lawyer, who quits his job to keep working on this case, who takes it all the way to the Supreme Court, isn't going to triumph in the end?  We've all just seen too many films like this, where people fight incredible odds for a cause which they think is right.  (Let's face it, if the case failed, would it be at all worth making a movie about?)   

History is written by the winners, and for a long time in Europe, that was the Germans.  Hitler's Nazis invaded so many countries - France, Austria, Poland - and took whatever they wanted, especially art and sculpture, and imprisoned or killed anyone who they didn't like or understand.  Why did it take so long for the museums that suddenly ended up with all of these treasures after WWII to admit that they didn't obtain them exactly legally?  The answer is quite simple: because it did not benefit them to do so. The museums probably figured that the rightful owners of these paintings and sculptures probably died in the war, so who cares if a few documents were fudged, it's not like anyone's going to come back and claim them...

Enter the sprightly Mrs. Altmann, who suddenly gets it in her head one day to chase after the Gustav Klimt paintings that used to hang in her family's apartment in Vienna.  Especially the painting that used to be titled "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer", but which the Nazis renamed "Woman in Gold" - you know, so it wouldn't sound so Jewish.  The film doesn't really make clear why she suddenly decides to try and get the painting back, there's some reference to the papers she found among her dead sister's belongings - I'm sure the fact that the paintings were worth a few hundred million had nothing to do with it. 

At first it seems a little too coincidental that the lawyer, Randy Schoenberg, is the grandson of the famous composer, Arnold Schoenberg, and that said composer was also from Vienna, also Jewish, and used to attend parties at the home of the Altmanns.  But since this is based on a true story, and that connection is a true one, it must be allowed.  I guess it makes sense that Maria Altmann wouldn't go too far out of her friends circle to find a lawyer she could trust.  

But my issue is really with the excessive use of flashbacks, so that the World War II story unfolds, interwoven with the more modern one of the court case to try and reclaim the painting.  They toggled back and forth between the two timelines quite literally, and while the court case unspooled chronologically, the flashback scenes did not.  They jumped around in time to show whatever seemed most relevant at the moment, leaving the audience to try and assemble everything into some semblance of proper order, and that's just too much work.  It also leads me to think that they didn't necessarily tell the whole story, and that leads me to wonder what might be missing.  

I've also got a quibble with the subtitles, not the fact that they exist, but the fact that they used a font that was very hard to read.  OK, maybe that made them a little less distracting, but they should have chosen a thicker, less artistic font to help out the people in the audience with bad vision.  I'm probably overdue for some new glasses, so I should get an eye test real soon.  In the meantime, I had problems with the thinness of the font.  

Also starring Helen Mirren (last seen in "RED 2"), Daniel Brühl (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Katie Holmes (last seen in "Muppets From Space"), Max Irons, Tatiana Maslany, Charles Dance (last seen in "The Imitation Game"), Allan Corduner (last seen in "Yentl"), Nina Kunzendorf, Henry Goodman (last seen in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), Tom Schilling, Moritz Bleibtreu (last seen in "The Fifth Estate"), Antje Traue, Frances Fisher (last seen in "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), Elizabeth McGovern (last seen in "Twice Upon a Yesterday"), Jonathan Pryce (last seen in "Evita"), Ben Miles.

RATING: 5 out of 10 apple strudels

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