Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tim Burton: Big Eyes (2014)

Starting in the late 1950s and proceeding into the 1960s in California, Tim Burton's Big Eyes delivers on two levels: specifically as a finely crafted "milieu film," and more generally as an intelligent musing about art, artists, provenance, impact -- and gender.  Off the wall, I'm reminded of Miloš Forman's 1984 adaptation of Amadeus, the 1979 Peter Shaffer play about classical musicians Mozart and Salieri. Art and promotion, ego and taste, talent and ambition: it's all there. In Big Eyes also, the ghost of Andy Warhol hovers throughout. True story. 
Kitsch, art -- either way, waifs with big eyes caught the popular imagination fifty to sixty odd years ago. Like physical height, big eyes are hard to resist. 

Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz play the leads. As Margaret Keane (aka Peggy Hawkins), Adams has the more difficult, more nuanced role, complicit in her husband's flashy showmanship; but Waltz's character (Walter Keane) has an inferiority-superiority complex, an alcohol-fueled "Jekyll and Hyde" personality, giving him some complexity to work with, too. Both are great -- as is the rest of the cast. 

My two favorite scenes may be the following: Margaret first entering "the club" to see what Walter is up to -- bathed in what looks like infrared light -- stunning on the big screen; and her shopping in a meticulously recreated supermarket, (apparently) hallucinating, seeing "big eyes" on other shoppers and workers, eerie moments right out of a surreal Jean Cocteau film or The Twilight Zone. Right on! 

Overall, Big Eyes is not too heavy, not too light. I dig!

Today's Rune: Possessions. 


Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't even know this one existed.

jodi said...

Erik, I remember doing a paint by number of a 'big eyes' when I was a kid. Thought it was totally cool!