Monday, March 9, 2015

Add to your must-see list Giuseppe Tornatore's gorgeous tale of obsessive love THE BEST OFFER

Have movies given us a more splendid story-teller than Giuseppe Tornatore? I don't think so. From Cinema Paradiso through The Legend of 1900, Malèna, The Unknown Woman and Baarìa, film after film is packed with everything I love about movies -- being able to lose myself in a story at once strange, wonderful and absolutely riveting and so gorgeously designed and photographed that each becomes an instant classic. Now we have THE BEST OFFER, yet another amazement from this beauty-besotted, quality-over-quantity artist.

Signore Tornatore, shown at left, has brought together a swell international cast for this English-language movie, each member working at top form and joining to make a near-perfect ensemble quartet. The milieu is the international art world, specifically the auction house owned by Virgil Oldman (a terrific Geoffrey Rush, below, center), a man who seems as remote from actual life and emotion as might be possible. Possessing an eye for art that is pretty extraordinary, Oldman has managed to run, over the years, a fine little scam, with the help of his friend Billy (Donald Sutherland), in which Billy helps sell paintings not worth all that much for higher prices, while allowing Oldman to acquire others that are likely to grow exponentially in value. Considered to be the expert in art evaluation, as well as the top auctioneer, Oldman is riding high.

Then he is asked to evaluate and handle the auctioning of the estate owned by an ultra-reclusive heiress, and bit by bit his life changes and expands -- as does that of the heiress.

In to this mix comes Robert, a young man whom Oldman often uses to repair watches and other mechanical items from the estates he handles. Robert is played by Jim Sturgess (above) in his most boyish, charming and winning mode. And if you know Sturgess' work, this is very winning.

The heiress, whom we do not see for some time, is played by Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks, above, chosen no doubt for her beauty and exotic quality as much as for her acting skills. She delivers on all three fronts.

What Tornatore has given us is a mystery as much as anything else. But it is also very much a love story, and an obsessive one, at that. Oldman will do things and go places utterly new to his world, and we follow, entranced by the beauty and strangeness of it all. Performances could hardly be better, particularly those of Rush and Sturgess, and the visual delights here are simply non-stop. I hope I live long enough to see more of this filmmaker's wonderful work, and that he keeps at it long after I'm gone.

The Best Offer, via IFC Films and running not a minute too long at 128 of them, is available now on DVD (if any movie deserves the Blu-ray treat-ment, it's this one) but, oddly, not available via digital rental. Netflix really ought to have this one on streaming. It has garnered an IMDB rating of 7.8 from over 51,000 viewers -- which is nothing to sneeze at, movie fans.

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