Klimt According to the press kit, director Raul Ruiz “transports us to 1918 where Gustav Klimt (John Malkovich) lies on his deathbed. We follow Klimt’s feverish visions back to the Austrian pavilion at the World Exhibition of 1900 in Paris, where he is awarded the gold medal for his work entitled ‘Philosophy.’ We witness his encounters with the film magician, Méliès, with the mysterious French dancer, Lea de Castro (Saffron Burrows) and with the ‘Secretary of State,’ an oppressive fatherly figure who accompanies Klimt through the film like a shadow. Gustav Klimt’s paintings have a fascinating expressiveness, passion, sensuality, and like his own life, are dedicated to women. Way ahead of his time, he was celebrated in Paris but condemned in his home town of Vienna for being provocative.”
In a San Franciso Chronicle film review, art critic Kenneth Baker suggests that the film never would have found a distributor without the frenzy created by Ronald Lauder’s record-breaking $135 million purchase of ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’ and other Klimt news stories in the past year. According to Baker, “Ruiz cast his ‘Klimt’ in the form of a deathbed flashback, as the painter lies in a hospital about to die from syphilis. Apparently, Ruiz thought the pathological delusions of late-stage syphilis licensed him to play free with the facts of the artist’s life – beginning with the fact that Klimt died abruptly of a stroke, not from a prolonged surrender to syphilis. There’s no telling how much coherence the film lost in truncation from its original 127 minutes to 94 minutes for North American release. Fact and fantasy mingle throughout ‘Klimt,’ compounding the cacophony in a script translated from the French original into German and then into English….The artistic life makes a poor subject for movie treatment, consisting as it does, in large part, of glamourless labor and cogitation.” Read more.