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Wednesday, June 19

The Best Offer/La Migliore Offerta

Growing up on movies such as Nuovo Cinema Paradisso (1988), winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1989, sets some quality standards, so I had high expectations when I decided to watch Giseppe Tornatore's latest picture. The Best Offer/La Migliore Offerta (2012) had all the best premises in the world: talented director, great cast, generous subject, excellent soundtrack and beautiful locations. Nevertheless, the movie, written and directed by Tornatore, fails to give you the desired goose bumps and the rush of mixed emotions.

Giuseppe Tornatore is an acclaimed Italian director of dramas like The Legend of 1900 (La Leggenda del Pianista sull’Oceano), Malena and Cinema Paradiso. Unlike his previous pictures, this movie breaks from the Sicilian themes that define the director's penchant for the beautiful past, and it is a most welcome glimpse at the sophisticated world of art auctions. Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) is a rush and famous auctioneer who takes great pleasure in his snobbish, sophisticated existence, loathing human contact and secretly amassing a collection of beautiful female portraits with the help of his accomplice, Billy (Donald Sutherland). A mysterious call from a young woman, Claire (Sylvia Hoeks) suffering from agoraphobia, gets him close to a mansion to assess the contents before sale. In the basement, his expert eye catches the glimpse of some old mechanical parts of an automaton dating back to the 17th century that he starts rebuilding with the help of his engineer-friend, Robert (Jim Sturgess). Virgil takes heart advice from Robert, a genuine lady's man, to get Claire out of her hidden room and closer to him. From this moment on, the movie becomes extremely predictable and the thrill is gone.

The refined, yet cold, beauty of all the women hanging on the walls of his secret hideout, is no match to the fresh, giving beauty Virgil finds in his latest work of art, Claire. Besotted with the young woman, Virgil turns this ambitious project of his into a priority, neglecting his image and professional duties, sharing with her his greatest secret. "There is always something authentic concealed in a forgery" confesses Virgil to his young friend, Robert and this is the automaton's final message to him. It is his other friend and proxy, Billy, who tells him that people are like works of art themselves: they can be forged to seem like the original and their every emotion can be faked. It all depends on how much you are willing to believe, on the extent to which you are ready to yield in the name of love. Claire makes Virgil the best offer possible, the chance to love and feel himself as a creator for his beloved Galatea; yet every exceptional offer has a downside.

To my book, this is what saved the movie from utter rejection: the very thin line between authenticity and falsity, the shred/potential of forgery that lies within every work of art, whether it is a human being or a remarkable painting. Otherwise, the dialogues are poor, Jim Sturgess's character is unexploited, Billy makes an inconstant appearance for his master puppeteer's intentions to be revealed and Claire has a sudden and unbelievable swing of moods. The script is flawed in its inconsistency and the movie fails to be either a drama or a thriller. Also, the cast makes an unfortunate bunch and there seems to be a lack of chemistry among the actors.The movie might not deliver but the display of the works of art and the interiors are an occasional delight. Beautiful as this movie desired to be, it is no substitute for our emotions, right?

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