As Walter Keane forty years ago, Christopher Waitz is accused of pandering to the lowest common denominator in the art world. He throws up his hands and screams, "What is WRONG with the lowest common denominator?" In today's Zeitgeist? We need a sensible answer more than ever.
I can accept "Big Eyes" on the molar level but not the molecular. That is, I can believe that Walter Keane, a born showman, began exhibiting his wife Margaret's successful Big Eye paintings as his own. There were arguments. They divorced. Margaret revealed that she was the artist behind the work and won a suit against him. Walter died "bitter and penniless" and Margaret "continues to paint to this day," as the epilogue tells us.
I don't accept the molecular structure. I don't think Margaret was really imprisoned in a smoky attic to grind out her many paintings. I don't believe Walter threatened to have her bumped off if she squealed. I don't believe that Walter, drunk and enraged, followed them through the house, flipping lighted matches at Margaret and her daughter out of jealousy while they shuddered in fear. That's a little generic, isn't it? "The drunken wife abuser?" I could believe it if the film showed us a conspiracy between Walter and Margaret, cackling as they collected their massive amounts of dough and bought the mansion in the suburbs, away from North Beach. Then I could believe bitter arguments followed over not just credit but pelf.
North Beach, 1957. That was some place. I was there at the time and it was thrilling, what with the emergence of the Beatniks, Bufano's penguins and all that. I patronized many of the places mentioned and I can recommend Vanessi's Restaurant as still a superb dining experience. I remember too the commotion over Walter Keane's fight with Enrico Banducci, proprietor of the Hungry i, where I saw The Gateway Singers render a song in Yiddish.
I remember too the sudden avalanche of Big Eye paintings. They were all over the place. You couldn't escape them. I was at the time a humble enlisted man at a Coast Guard radio station in San Bruno. My mates were a proletarian bunch with a sprinkling of geniuses. When the Keane painting began appearing, we all laughed at them because even in our lowbrow circles we could tell they STANK. Rough-hewn young men who had never gotten through high school (and never deserved to) found them to be a joke.
They're still a joke, as this movie is a joke on everyone who took these works at all seriously. They've been endlessly parodied since. And it's amusing for Tim Burton to play visiting art aficionados as pansies gasping at the intensity of a painting of some kid in a tattered dress with eyes like dinner plates, a tear coursing through the dust of one cheek.
The movie is based on an interesting premise: who gets credit for expensive kitsch? But it devolves quickly into a soap opera of an abused woman fighting for empowerment. The movie goes out of its way to link this tabloid story to the oppression of women everywhere in 1960. "Does your husband allow you to work?", asks an employer. "Let your husband make the decisions," advises a priest. We're no longer in 1957 -- especially not 1957 San Francisco -- but back in 957 AD. What's a millennium here and there? There's been criticism of the performances but I don't know why. Amy Adams does just fine as the oppressed, whimpering wife, all clammed up, as the script requires, and there is a long withheld smile of satisfaction and revenge as she humiliates her ex husband in court. One reviewer claimed she wore too much makeup. Well, yes, for our tastes now.
The movie wouldn't be what it is without the performance of Christopher Waitz. He's amazing -- outrageously over the top. He cackles, he waves his arms expansively, he shouts instead of speaking, he tells wild stories, and his German accent lends a surreal quality to every line, whether angry or palliative.
The photography shows us a city and its innards in lurid colors, as in a cartoon or a Twentieth-Century Fox musical, saturated and blinding, and it suits the story like a substrate suits its enzyme.
Action / Biography / Crime / Drama / Romance
Action / Biography / Crime / Drama / Romance
In San Francisco in the 1950s, Margaret was a woman trying to make it on her own after leaving her husband with only her daughter and her paintings. She meets gregarious ladies' man and fellow painter Walter Keane in a park while she was struggling to make an impact with her drawings of children with big eyes. The two quickly become a pair with outgoing Walter selling their paintings and quiet Margaret holed up at home painting even more children with big eyes. But Walter's actually selling her paintings as his own. A clash of financial success and critical failure soon sends Margaret reeling in her life of lies. With Walter still living the high life, Margaret's going to have to try making it on her own again and re-claiming her name and her paintings.
Uploaded By: OTTO
Downloaded 202,537 times
March 29, 2015 at 12:26 AM