Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was one of the first well-known female painters. The movie tells the story of her youth, when she was guided and protected by her father, the painter ...
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Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was one of the first well-known female painters. The movie tells the story of her youth, when she was guided and protected by her father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi. Her professional curiosity about the male anatomy, forbidden for her eyes, led her to the knowledge of sexual pleasure. But she was also well known because in 1612 she had to appear in a courtroom because her teacher, Agostino Tassi, was suspected of raping her. She tried to protect him, but was put in the thumb screws...Written by
The movie is a biography of the painter Artemisia Gentileschi, but many major details of her life were changed, leading to widespread criticism. In the movie, the relationship between Artemisia and Agostino is portrayed as a beautiful love affair, and the reason Artemisia is is tortured is because she refuses to testify that he raped her. In reality, Agostino really did rape Artemisia (and other women), and the reason she was tortured was because she did testify in court that he had raped her. See more »
The painting displayed at the trial, Judith Decapitating Holofernes, was painted c. 1618, 6 years after the 1612 trial of Tassi. The self-portrait she shows Tassi was painted in the 1630's, long after she met Tassi. See more »
A beautiful and highly sexual focus on the artist's coming to be an artist in Rome, 1610s...
What works: great sets and scenes, very convincing recreation of the times, from the domestic to the holy, from the artist's studio to a bordello. The leading actress, Valentine Cervi, is strong and resourceful and pulls of an excellent Artemisia Gentileschi, the woman artist active in the early 1600s. Her teacher and rapist is Agostino Tassi, played with zest in a way that sparks the movie to life. The rest of the cast is good, even excellent, but they are in supporting roles or remain a bit functional (as with Artemisia's father).
What fails: two things. One is the famous problem that the rape of the main character is turned into something of a feisty love affair, changing a key part of the abusive history the artist lived and fought through. It wasn't necessary. This isn't a love story. The other drawback is we never quite see her art--one painting, a famous one (Judith Slaying Holofernes), isn't enough to show she had exceptional talent both technically and imaginatively. It's true, she was a Caravaggio or a Rembrandt (her contemporaries) but her work continues to rise in the view of art historians. It would give some foundation to the movie, better foundation than some oversimplified and even inaccurate statements tacked on the end in plain text.
What is curious: this is a highly sexualized account, to the point of being bizarre. There's no sense this defines Artemesia historically, and though sex probably existed back then, it is pushed to the foreground here as a preoccupation of the filmmakers more than the subject. I didn't mind, but I find it a bit of a bore. There are lovers on the beach quite explicitly seen, the famous rape scene a little less graphic, some peering into a whorehouse with lots of details, and so on. Nudity, too, is part of the reality, and is brought up front here. That might be a plus or minus for many of you, but it didn't contribute to the movie, as a film, for me.
What the movie does best is establish the world of 1610 Rome and environs, and to lay out the basics of Artemisia's situation before her famous move to Florence and her rise into contemporary appreciation (the movie ends with her leaving her family in Rome). It's all guesswork as to the artist's temperament, and Cervi is creditable. The idea of a headstrong young woman willing to take chances, curious about everything, is almost necessary to be able to buck the system. And that male dominated system is evident in the workings of the studios, the home, and eventually the torturous trial.
I'm an art historian of sorts (my specialty is photography), and I watch all biographies of artists on film with skepticism. And so it's no surprise this left me slightly flat--I expected more. In a way, if a film is only about the aura of the artist and her or his world, it might be better to just create a fantasia about it. This gives the appearance of being historical, and as such it is a bit disappointing. Oddly, it's a French movie about an Italian artist, and I saw it with English subtitles.
5 of 8 people found this review helpful.
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