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Another masterful performance by stage and screen veteran Frank Langella, anchors this visually sumptuous but remote depiction of the relationship that begins when a selfish dying man hires a young struggling artist (Wes Bentley) for a series of enigmatic video assignments. A dull actor with intense eyes, Bentley brings very little energy to his role as a neglectful father and husband consumed by his love for the canvas. As a result, the drama remains tentative until the emotional heart of the film, a character played by Sarah Paulson,arrives towards the finale. The culminating set piece, involving Langella's final gift to his family is devastating in its emotional power and visual simplicity, but over all the film feels more of a cinematic exercise than a satisfying dramatic story.
The Time Being is a meditation and a gentle character study. The director manages to capture a mood without too much dialogue. Frank Langella is as usual masterful in the role of a dying man who commissions a down-on-his-luck painter (Wes Bentley), sending him on strange assignments filming sunrises, sunsets and children playing in a playground. The mystery eventually reveals itself leading the painter to seek balance between his family life and his art. The visuals and production design are stunning as are the transitions of swirling paint in water. I saw this film at the Toronto Film Festival and the audience response was very positive. This is an art-house film that won't disappoint.
Frank Langella would very, very much be the reason to see this film, he
doesn't disappoint...its the film around him that disappoints. Playing
his somewhat usual unusual role of enigmatic rich man asking mysterious
favors of a somewhat struggling younger person while hiding his own
questionable agenda (see also "The Ninth Gate" and "The Box" among
others.) Langella shows up on screen maybe ten minutes in snapping at
his maid to go the pharmacy after she literally just said she was going
there--- He then follows up with the memorable one liner "Life's a lot
less complicated ever since I stopped hearing women talk" Its the kind
of irresistible barbed one liner that i love hearing come out of
Langella in movies exactly like these, and as he went about describing
just exactly what he wanted from the young painter whose time and
energy he solicits, I was more then wrapped up in the whole mysterious
vibe of the film and quite optimistic.
Unfortunately the film as a whole seems a lot more interested in the process of painting and saddling Langella with somewhat ominous monologues with grave overtones about the importance of living while doing what you love while you can. I mean the writer/director gives Langella a good reason for doing that but its possible it could've been done in a somewhat less ham fisted way. While the creation of the various canvases that lead Wes Bentley gets to somewhat lovingly paint are tied in nicely with the main plot line, and the repeated close-ups of paint mixing with water are a neat visual motif (i suppose) its definitely not what i went to this movie to see, but its possible that I went to see this because I just wanted to see what nutty thing the Frank Langella character wanted from the younger character this time around.
What Langella wants is fairly easy to guess and one nice thing on the director's part is that he that he lets Wes Bentley understand almost immediately from the second he sees Sarah Paulson exactly what Langella wanted. The climactic scene of Bentley and Paulson together is nicely effective and reasonably free of the hitting you over the head emotionalism that a lesser director would've went for. When the film ends however you kind of realize that not a whole lot really happened and that the journey that Wes Bently made and the lessons he's supposed to have learned regarding the way he's been living his life don't feel all that true. Even tho i did like the performance of the actress who played his wife (Ahna O'Reily) who i thought did a very effective job showing the frustrations living with this obsessive painter was having on her life during the couple of scenes she was in. (Or as Langella says to Bentley regarding her "Artists can't have families, it takes away from their art") Honestly i just think the film either needed more meat to its rather slim story, or failing that more maybe some more substantial scenes between Bentely and Langella--I'm not entirely sure what this film needed more of but i definitely feel like it needed more of something for it to have felt worth watching and thinking about as a whole but OK.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Many years ago, a women's magazine featured a list of the sort of men
women should avoid marrying. Heading that list were artists. The reason
given was that artists marry to take care of all the basic and mundane
things in their lives (possibly including sex) so that they can get on
with what they really want to do their art.
Although the article was slightly tongue-in-cheek, this beautifully made film bears the theory out perfectly.
Daniel (Wes Bentley), a struggling artist is having trouble supporting his family. When he delivers a painting to Warner Dax (Frank Langella), a wealthy old man he thinks could become a benefactor, his life undergoes a remarkable change.
At first, Warner commissions him to undertake a series of bizarre surveillance exercises, which seemingly have little to do with art. We suspect that there could be a malevolent motive behind this, especially when Daniel loses his job, and nearly his family. Eventually everything drops into place and we see that rather than a sinister figure, Warner is actually a mentor who offers Daniel a chance to lead a more satisfying life.
Apparently the film was made on a ridiculously small budget, but it doesn't show; low key and moody, the story unfolds at a measured pace.
The art in the film is woven into the texture of the story in a unique way. There is one painting of Warner Dax against a background of brambles, which makes a salient point about how the character sees his life. The names of the artists who executed the powerful paintings in the film appear in the end credits: original paintings created by Eric Zener and Stephen Wright.
Love of art shows through in every frame of "The Time Being", including the atmospheric score by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. In an interview, writer/director Nenad Cicin-Sain said that in his youth he had been involved in various forms of art, " When I was in my late twenties I formed a partnership with a painter who was ultimately one of the people who did a lot of the paintings in the film, underwater painting".
Presumably this was Eric Zener who provided the art for Wes Bentley's character. The bold figure work we see a little later in the movie, some of which seems like a modern take on the paintings of Lucien Freud, is by Stephen Wright. It's also worth noting that during the painting scenes, the actors seem to know their way around a brush and canvas, applying the paint in a convincing manner.
"The Time Being" celebrates the art of film as much as the impressive artwork within the story. It is a movie that sneaks up on you; I was sorry when it ended. Those who don't normally go for this sort of thing may find it a welcome change of pace.
Beautiful photography, beautiful paintings, beautiful filming! But I am
afraid if someone doesn't have an intuitive sense or educated
background in seeing and comprehending coloration, a sense of space,
composition, contrast, texture, and just plain contemplation of beauty;
then I do not feel they will appreciate this film.
From start to finish every frame, scene, setting, motion, etc. of this film is art - fine art. The plot line is secondary to the imagery! Frank Langella as Warner Dax, and Wes Bentley as Daniel are both suffering and failing. Warner Dax suffers the alienation of his family and his declining health. Daniel suffers the inability to provide for his family because his art is failing to sell and his marriage is dissolving. They each escape this suffering through their creative abilities in their own way. Warner hires Daniel to assist him in creating his final painting, but Daniel does not realize this. And Daniel, through his association with Warner finds his way back into his art. The story is easy to follow. What's difficult is seeing how the paintings are an outer expression of their internal selves!
The end credits in the movie states original paintings created by Eric Zener and Stephen Wright. I would love to see an exhibition of the paintings created for this film. And I would love to see an exhibit of just some motion picture stills! The two actors are just shadows behind the art.
I'm giving it an 8 because it's beautiful to watch & see. The acting is a bit dry and you just don't care about them.
a great actor. a strange subject. nuances of atmosphere. all as bones and flesh of a movie who can remember Lucian Freud art or American Beauty.it is a film from images and silence. a kind of parable. or only a lesson.Frank Langella is the locomotive of this interesting project. Sarah Paulson - the delicate spice.Wes Bentley- only a silhouette lost in middle of details. it is a beautiful movie. not exactly good. only beautiful. a kind of embroidery, a precise puzzle, a story about choices, maybe, version of Faust pact. the best ingredient - expectation of viewer. the worse - hope to remark Wes Bentley in a special role. but director intuition remains remarkable - Frank Langella is the best and the others, including the script, may be his mirrors.
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