Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Big Eyes

I can't stop thinking about this movie, 
but for all the wrong reasons

      I've been infatuated with Keane's paintings since they first appeared to me in the '70s.  I did a lot of pebble art in the early '60s and big eyed elves were a common subject matter for 
Pebble Art Elf
them.  I can't help but wonder if Margaret Keane wasn't influenced by them. Later on, the Keane paintings became a running gag on SNL. I don't recall any of the controversy over the paintings so when I saw the story on CBS This Morning, I was immediately sold on seeing the movie.  Unfortunately, the report focused on the movie's entire story and the film didn't bother to expound much beyond that. 

Margaret's Studio
      The best part of the movie for me was the flawless art direction by Chris August.  Candy coated pastels appeared throughout to emphasize the time period and innocence of the
works at hand.  Absolutely nothing, from the streets of San Francisco to Waikiki to Northern California homes, was amiss.  The two star performances fit in well with their surroundings.  
Big Eyes at the Grocery Store
Amy Adams never fell out of character from the passive, quiet-spoken Margaret that felt stifled most of her married life.  One detail that Director Tim Burton suggested was that Margaret may have seen everyone around her with big eyes.  Unfortunately, as fascinating as that premise could have been, it only lasted through one scene.  Christoph Waltz may be backing himself into a corner continuing to play head cases.  But then again, he's a master at it.  

The Keane's "Gallery" in a
San Francisco Night Club's Hallway
      San Francisco was a mecca for art and artists in the '60s.  People came from all over the world to purchase art there, a point that is never brought out in the film.  That was a fact that allowed the Keanes to cash in and sell original art, as well as prints which Walter Keane successfully promoted. I would have found the movie much more compelling if it had delved into that world and how kitsch art can trump the classics.  Is it true what Andy Warhol said? “I think what Keane has done is terrific! If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it.”

      I'm still perplexed by Margaret's actions, or lack thereof.  I know she now admits being wrong, but was she really battered? The movie portrayed elements of such.  On the other hand, Walter was responsible for selling her "art", and it can't be proven if it would have been so commercially successful if he had not  done so.

      With such intriguing characters and events, Paul's comment at the end of the movie should not have been, "We've all seen that story before".  The story ends up being yet another example of a victimized wife under the thumb of her manipulative, controlling husband.  This doesn't come near to explaining the Keanes and their contribution to popular culture, regardless of an individual's level of appreciation for that achievement.

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