Boogie Woogie Movie Review: Con of The Art

When Van Gogh got crazed and sliced off his own ear, wonder if he may have been picking up prophetic conversations from the future – with avaricious millionaires today squabbling over art works as consumer products – and then went to extreme measures to shut it all out. The notion is not all that farfetched after viewing Boogie Woogie, cynical eavesdropper art snob fare peering into the pretentious when not cruel machinations transpiring in the world of creative merchandise commerce.

Directed by Duncan Ward and based on the novel by screenwriter Danny Moynihan, Boogie Woogie engages in a narrative transplant from New York to London, and likely muting much of its casually stinging satire in the process. Though there’s plenty of acid tongued nastiness remaining to shrivel the least faint hearted in those upscale haunts, where art possessions callously define social status.

Danny Houston is a scheming London high end art dealer and gallery owner named Art, what else. His perky assistant Beth Freemantle (Heather Graham) is apparently into much more than just seeking Art’s advice on which plastic model she should select for her own new breast implants. Beth is also taking notes on the sly intimating gallery insider trading, and in effect to eventually set up her own competing business and lure away her employer’s clients for herself.

Then there’s Elaine (Jaime Winstone), an ambitious lesbian artist surreptitiously filming intimate encounters with assorted lovers, along with tragic moments caught on camera of betrayed friends, which she hopes to eventually display in a gallery as a provocative same sex masterpiece. And while a stubborn elderly invalid (Christopher Lee) refuses to part with the priceless Mondrian Boogie Woogie in his possession because he seems to be the only character who can distinguish art from money, socialite collector Jean (Gillian Anderson) with a designer poodle named Picasso, acquires a boy toy painter to complement her ornaments, crafty womanizer Joe (Jack Huston). And Paige Prideaux (Amanda Seyfried) glides in from nowhere wearing roller skates and not much else, seemingly a tease linked to Graham’s original turn on blades in the somewhat similarly titled Boogie Nights.

On a side note, Danny Huston is in real life the uncle of Jack, while Jaime shares DNA with dad Ray Winstone. Though Seyfried’s unborn twin that turns up as a questionable bottled work of art in the movie, might be considered a bit off topic here.

Less might have been more, as too many narrative threads nearly clog up the proceedings. But the stuffy elegant veneer of these swells undercut by their predatory moves on one another when not conning the consumers, is masterfully telegraphed with a devilishly sinister flair.

Boogie Woogie: A movie that seems to be about anything but the art. Yet at the same time in deconstructing that conniving inner circle culture that buys and sells one another as well, couldn’t have been more revealing.

IFC Films


3 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.