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DIRECTED BY: Mary Harron
FEATURING: , , Christopher Briney, Rupert Graves,
PLOT: A young art gallery intern has a brush with the strange world of ì during the master’s twilight years.
COMMENTS: Tucked into this quiet biopic is as apt a description of what attracts us, here at 366 Weird Movies, to the films we hunt for, enjoy, and cling to. On a cash errand for the maestro, James interrupts a gallery owner pitching a signed art print. The woman is intrigued, but hesitant, not sure what to make of the image which stands before her. “You… like it?” she asks. “I find it upsetting… I don’t think I want to live with someone else’s weird dream on my wall.” James replies, “But that weirdness, that’s what makes it original. It got to you, that’s why you’ll never get tired of it; you’ll never forget it.” He nails it, inadvertently securing the sale. Simultaneously, his description of that piece explains, as best one can, what Salvador Dalì, and all weird visionaries, are about.
Mary Harron’s film is more of an ensemble piece than the name (and grandiose subject matter) might suggest. In fact, much of the film involves Salvador Dalì (Ben Kingsley), now old, at times bordering on caricature, observing those around him: the trendy hangers-on, his friend Alice Cooper, his inspiring—but harsh—wife Gala (Barbara Sukowa), his new assistant James, and, most of all, Dalì. He speaks in third person. He performs without surcease in the presence of others. And he ages, as it is “very tiring being Dalì.” Put aside his trove of drawings, paintings, and sculptures; his life was a work of art, a performance piece for the ages.
Dalìland is polished and straightforward, but that does not make it resonate any less. While there are many searing, satirical jabs at posers and poseurs, show-offs and charlatans, Harron neither glorifies nor denigrates these oddballs and outcasts dancing along society’s periphery; those who, through their mien and flair mitigate the day-to-day blandness of those around them; the eye-catchers who make others wonder, “Just what the heck are they doing?” and who devote their life force to lending us a touch of the unreal—the sur-real, if you will. Dalì was many different people over the course of his long life, and the performer behind these acts is impossible to know. Indeed, it is clear even to a layman such as myself, that the “real” Dalì probably never existed, and Dalì could not have been happier for having achieved that.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“The latest of the director’s splendidly offbeat biopics captures the madness, the comedy and the tragedy of the surrealist legend who turned his very identity into a work of art.”–Owen Gleiberman, Variety (contemporaneous)