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Movie Review

(Untitled)

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Satirizing New York's trendiest contemporary art and music scene, "(Untitled)" is an original film on several fronts, not least its ambiguous viewpoint. And contrary to what one might think, that's a virtue, not a shortcoming. Its creative team and actors resist the temptation to spell it out, unlike many satires that are heavy-handed. It's also quite amusing.

The film is set in Chelsea, N.Y., and centers on the misadventures of Adrian Jacobs (Adam Goldberg), a miserably unhappy experimental composer who is having an affair with his brother's girlfriend Madeleine (Marley Shelton). A fashionable gallery owner, Madeleine insists she adores his unattended recitals that involve glass breaking and the kicking of metal buckets. By contrast, his brother, Josh (Eion Bailey), is a commercially successful painter in the corporate world, though Madeleine refuses to exhibit his work—precisely because it sells, as she displays only noncommercial "art." Josh's canvases adorned with an occasional dot or stripe underwrite her gallery but are kept in its back room. The denizens of this quirky world include a self-important, know-nothing art collector (Zak Orth); a volatile British artist (Vinnie Jones) whose creations are dead animals draped in jewelry; and another artist who appears to be brain-dead (Ptolemy Slocum) and whose art is found objects.

The performances are admirable. Goldberg is convincing as the wretched composer who has no doubt he is creating great art that is way ahead of its time. The actor evokes a man awash in guilt over his affair with his brother's girlfriend. Shelton fully inhabits the self-indulgent yet fully committed gallery owner. In a low-keyed role, Bailey brings to life a painter genuinely torn over his inability to be taken seriously in the art world, his financial success notwithstanding. In bit parts Orth, Jones, and Slocum are delightful.

But credit has to go to writer–co-director Jonathan Parker and co-writer Catherine DiNapoli for the film's refreshing subtlety. In the end, we're not entirely sure how the filmmakers view the characters they are presenting. Are all, or only some of them, trendy zombies? Or are Parker and DiNapoli suggesting these artists have redeemable qualities and perhaps shouldn't be dismissed, despite the trashiness and absurdity of their art? If nothing else, the characters believe in what they're doing. Arguably, that's the problem. Why are these artists spinning their wheels? That question should resonate with even the most conventionally minded actor who is struggling for no discernable purpose.

Genre: Comedy
Directed by: Jonathan Parker
Written by: Jonathan Parker, Catherine DiNapoli
Starring: Adam Goldberg, Eion Bailey, Marley Shelton, Vinnie Jones, Zak Orth, Ptolemy Slocum

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