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Swedish painter Anders Zorn gained notoriety for his nudes. His works are currently worth millions. The film is set in the time when Zorn, already respected for his art, was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Swedish king. Though an excellent painter, Zorn's personal life is dreadful. A boozer and a womanizer who frequently cheats on his wife, Zorn constantly seeks approval for his art. When he travels to the U.S. for a tour he meets Emilie Bartlett the wife of sculptor Paul W. Bartlett with whom he begins a sporadic affair. After Paul commits suicide, Zorn and Emilie move to Sweden. Zorn disregards his wife's feelings and openly displays his affections for Emilie. Written by
Biopic about Swedish painter Anders Zorn and his many female entanglements. Zorn (Gunther Hallstrom, who also wrote and directed) has an amazing knack for getting pretty young women out of their clothes, posed in front of his easel, into his bed (sometime more than one at a time), pregnant, then leaving them, and still staying in their good books. This is despite (or perhaps because of) him being a very unattractive, rather fat old man who demonstrates, again and again, that he's a bad-mannered and callous oaf. Lord knows what these girls see in him, but he's certainly a charmer, and his admiration for the beautiful female body is frank and never hidden.
The term "long-suffering" could have been invented for his wife Emma (Liv Ullmann), who endures his ignorance of her and his flagrant infidelity. Example : Emma is serving strawberry cordial and tea cakes to a group of older women friends while much girlie giggling is coming from the house. Emma bursts in and finds Zorn embracing a naked girl, who is sitting on a bed and modelling for a painting. With a straight face, Zorn tells Emma that he's decided to hire this new girl as a kitchen maid.
Keeping track of Zorn's ladyfriends is a challenge. Ols-Maria, who works for the Zorns. Beda (who has the toothiest grin you'll see in many a year) and Ida, who pose for him together, sleep with him together, give birth to his children at the same time, and name the children after him. Kari, who becomes the kitchen maid. And the wife of a game hunter, played by Linda Koslowski. Linda's character is more prominent than the others, yet she's oddly similar. Despite being a nominally strong and independent woman, she spends most of her screen time wearing the same idiot grin as the other girls besotted with Zorn. Her only other expression is of serious concern, when he meets her again some years later. Linda K (by then married to Paul Hogan) gets to pose nude like the other women (though discreetly), but her character is severely limited and not well acted.
Wife Emma is the only female whose feelings for Zorn are more complicated than straight-out adoration. Emma is the very essence of a tortured victim, a woman who loves but is ignored, who is disgusted but can't bear the shame which divorce would bring upon her family. Liv Ullmann does a magnificent job of this part, given the small amount of screen time she has (because Zorn does his utmost to keep away from her !).
Director Hallstrom can't seem to decide what sort of man Zorn was. He wavers between presenting him as a peasant, a victim, a hero, a complete bastard, a figure of fun, and of course an enthusiastic dirty old man. Perhaps he's just having an honest go at presenting the whole picture. And there are a few wonderfully funny moments, such as Zorn painting (the US President) Taft, who can't keep still and keeps eating, much to Zorn's frustration.
So, who'd watch it ? For anyone who loves looking at luscious blondes without clothes (there a quite a few, and the nudity is plentiful), recommended. If that's ALL you're interested in, keep a finger poised over the fast-forward button, as the plot is too lesiurely at times. The film goes for two hours, and the story meanders around Sweden, the US and France. It goes on a bit too long, and would have benefited from tighter editing. Still, the photography is beautiful, there's no violence (though some brutality) and the acting is (mostly) quite good.
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