“Art” and Art and art, presented in sardonic strokes

(Untitled)

on October 23, 2009 by Pete Hammond
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This spoof on the state of contemporary art is full of bright actors and witty dialogue but may go over most heads with its biting sarcasm and cheeky attitude. Set around the life of an upscale gallery owner and her unconventional clientele, (Untitled) could use more of a hook to grab the non-arthouse patron but ultimately this is a smart and funny comedy surprise dripping in style, laughs and attitude. Expect modest results from a brief theatrical run with increasing success in DVD as word of mouth spreads.

A simply terrific ensemble cast is the main attraction in this probably too-clever-for-its-own-good satire on the world of modern art. Madeline (Marley Shelton) is the finicky and opinionated owner of a Chelsea art gallery whose current exhibit spotlights the work of a looney artist (Vinnie Jones) who specializes in combining taxidermy with everyday household objects. One of his prized pieces is nothing more than a yellow post it note set against a blank wall: it’s called “Untitled.” Madeline’s problems are exacerbated when she falls for an Avant Garde musician/composer, Adrian, (Adam Goldberg) whose idea of musical fusion involves kicking buckets, crumbling pieces of paper and breaking glass, among other things. She also must deal with the out-of-control ego of Adrian’s brother, Josh, (Eion Bailey) who is determined to get his very saleable art out of her backroom corporate dealership and into his own show, something she refuses to do until he takes matters into his own hands.

Director Jonathan Parker, who co-wrote with Catherine DiNapoli, has a keen eye for the absurd world on display here but probably takes it all a little too seriously, at least it seems so at first. Once we warm up to the premise and the offbeat characters, the comedy settles into a manageable rhythm that keeps the laughs coming at a nice pace. All of this is due to a Cracker Jack cast who plays this silly piece like a finely tuned cello. Goldberg is particularly adept at essaying a fringe musician with no idea he has zero talent. Also wonderful as his brother, Bailey craves attention and gets it in the worst way possible. Jones ( Snatch ) is successfully cast against type as the out-there artist while Shelton keeps everything perfectly grounded in her gallery and on screen.

The peculiarities of the art world have been chronicled before in many ways but the lilting satirical tone of (Untitled) takes it all to the limit with a surprising amount of success. Considering how bad much of the music is supposed to be, composer David Lang contributes a witty score that walks a very thin line. The sharp cinematography of Svetlana Cvetko is perfect for the proceedings and adds to the fun.

Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Cast: Adam Goldberg, Marley Shelton, Eion Bailey, Vinnie Jones, Lucy Punch and Zak Orth
Director: Jonathan Parker
Screenwriters: Jonathan Parker and Catherine DiNapoli
Producers: Andreas Olavarria, Catherine DiNapoli and Matt Luber
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R for language and nude images.
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: October 23 NY/LA

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