Art of Passion

STUDIO: Liberation Entertainment
MSRP: $19.95
RUNNING TIME: 89 Minutes
Feature Commentary w/ director
Essay by composer
Photo gallery
Deleted scenes
Location maps
DVD-ROM content

The Pitch

“It’s Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man
. Naked!”

The Humans

Bryant, Aleksandra Kaniak, Joe Estevez (J-j-joe!)

The Nutshell

There once was a painter named
Whose talent you wouldn’t believe.
He practiced at school,
And learned all the rules.
Might laurels he ever achieve?

"It tickles when he steals my soul."

The Lowdown

If you hear
a pitch or tagline for a movie that involves the words “young artist,” you can
pretty much bet you’re in for a cavalcade of idealism, a celebration of abstracts
like truth and beauty, minus Keats’ balancing ambiguity. Young artists are the
stupid ones, the ones who manage beauty through experimentation, instead of
deliberate effort. Their idealism is an inward momentum, but it moves at odds
with the other inertias in their lives: love, success, contentment, rebellion.

Art of Passion takes this basic theory of artistic
development and wraps characters around the concepts. You have Steve, the
artist, pushing himself to create something beautiful. Then there are the women
in his life: the worldly painter who urges him to abandon the traditional
impressionism that has long been his forte; the gallery owner who wants him to give
her a show full of just such impressionist (read: boring) pieces; the lusty,
naked model who wants Steve to abandon himself to his primal urges; and the
ego-boosting tart who loves Steve and his artsy attitude just the way he is.

"Fuck, yeah you can call me ‘Joe’!"

That the
whole cast can be reduced to vectors speaks volumes about how engaging the
script is. Sure, there’s some sexual tension, but its all put into play as a
way to show externally how Steve’s mind wanders from target to target like a
sharpshooter with double vision. Art of Passion isn’t really a
character drama in the traditional sense, in which characters interact; this is
all about Steve; everyone exists to help Steve define himself as an artist,
which is none too compelling a plot.

worse is that the sexual politics get occluded by a competition much more
esoteric and less momentous: the conflict between traditional painting and the
abstract. As far as I know, no one in film has made a successful
character-driven essay on the relative merits of impressionism vs., say,
cubism. Pollock was about Pollock; Art of Passion wrangles some
philosophy of painting as the center of its drama, instead of something to do
explicitly with its protagonist. The only good example of differing painting
techniques being exploited for drama is Orhan Pamuk’s novel My
Name Is Red

"My name is Domino Notharvey."

Art of Passion is earnest with its material, but
that material is so far removed from the audience’s experience that the
intended drama fails to inspire. It’s possible to sympathize with Steve, but
where the film should make you feel as though you’ve just had a few beers with
the fellow, swapping life stories, you just feel as if you passed the guy on
the street and gave him a polite nod.

The Package

commentary by director Arthur Bjorn Egeli goes a good way toward explaining the
genesis of the film, in biographical details culled from Egeli’s own life. The
man is an earnest as his creation. Here’s a thing, though: by the end of the
commentary track, I felt as if I knew Egeli better than I knew Steve.

There are
quite a few additional bonuses packed onto the disc, including interviews,
deleted scenes, a photo gallery, quick bios, and trailers. Then there’s two
things you don’t often see: maps of the locations used in filming, and an essay
on art (in some permutation of the word) by the film’s composer, Michael
Errington. These last two are welcome additions to the usual suspects.

5.5 out of 10