Thursday, December 18, 2014

INSIDE THE MIND OF LEONARDO DA VINCI 3D, with Scots accent and a poster like a horror flick

"What were they thinking?" gets yet another go-round with the theatrical release of the totally unnecessary documentary, INSIDE THE MIND OF LEONARDO DA VINCI 3D. Forget that they chose a Scot, the capable Peter Capaldi, to play an Italian -- sure, Doctor Who is a popular series, but come on: There are plenty of Italian actors who speak decent English (you can see a few right now on Netflix's Marco Polo) -- and then decided to shoot it all in 3D, while giving the dumb-ass poster the look of a horror film, this remains mostly a single-talking-head movie with a nod to some of the original Renaissance Man's singular work. Yes, the 3D scenery is pretty to look at, but in general it seems, as does most else in this grade-school-level doc, to border on the pointless -- except for those folk who know next to nothing about Signore Da Vinci.

The filmmaker Julian Jones (shown at right) both directed and co-wrote (with Nick Dear) the movie, so he gets most of the (dis)credit here. Jones has made a perfectly OK paean to one of history's geniuses, skirting along on automatic pilot regarding everything from the guy's history to his inventions and his art. Capaldi, below, does his best stern-voice-and-visage act, even if he does not begin to seem in the least Italian. And some of the scenery (I presume shot in Tuscany) looks lovely. Otherwise, this is all just a documentary-by-numbers look at its subject.

The press release makes much of the fact that the movie is based on the artist's private journals, offering more than 6,000 pages of handwritten notes and drawings, and that never before has access been granted to capture these works in 3D HD format. Well, if this is all they could come up with out of 6,000 pages, I suspect you will not be impressed. Ditto the fact that access was granted to capture it all in 3D and High Def. Run-of-the-mill remains run-of-the-mill, even with an extra dimension added.

Perhaps I am being too hard on this little movie, which might give the uninitiated a glance at genius. And yet, if this does not send viewers out to learn more about that genius, then what's the point? I doubt very much that the movie -- piecemeal, "arty" and slow-paced to the point of embalmed -- will do that. In fact, I greatly preferred the interesting and very entertaining Da Vinci section found in the recent animated movie, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

Inside the Mind of Leonardo Da Vinci 3D (what an elegantly simple and subtle title!) -- from Submarine Deluxe and History Films and running somewhere between 80 and 85 minutes -- opens this Friday, December 19, in New York City at the Village East Cinema and in Los Angeles at the Crest Theater. For other playdates, click here and scroll down.

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