Filmmaker Bertrand wanders through the rooms of Parisian museums, looking for an image of a perfect monster to inspire him for a new movie. In parallel with this, he introduces his creations in the cinematheque, gives interviews, and tries not to notice how a red spot in the shape of a handprint is growing on his back. Antoine Barraud's surreal fantasy explores how life imperceptibly but maniacally duplicates and extends art, adopting and expanding its representation, up to the most terrifying imagery, starring renowned director Bertrand Bonello, the author of Zombie Child, who plays an alternative version of himself.
From the opening minutes, the voiceover text of Bertrand's mother (dubbed by the legendary Charlotte Rampling) intertwines art with sex, telling how her son received sex education in a museum. We also meet the protagonist for the first time staring at a statue of a sleeping naked hermaphrodite: a watchful viewer would immediately puzzle out a reference to Bonello's own film Tiresia about a transsexual woman who can tell the future. The main character is largely autobiographical, with Bertrand, performed by Bonello, shooting intellectual cinema full of various allusions and writing soundtracks for his films. Bonello not only casually and ironically portrays a doubtful director who gradually slips into madness but also staged the fragments of films included in the storyline.
Portrait of the Artist is a study of paintings by Joan Miró, Francis Bacon, and Théodore Chassériau, photography by Cindy Sherman and Diane Arbus, interspersed with mundane escapades and costumed sex parties. Like a painting executed in multiple techniques, compared to a monster here, Barraud's film drags in its whirlpool aesthetic satire with erotic horror, a story in the genre of an artist's portrait with a fetishist cinephilic fantasy, referencing Hitchcock, Fellini, and Buñuel. Bertrand, who suffers from Stendhal syndrome—dizziness and clouding of mind from excessive contact with art—loses the border between reality, museum art, and his own work, turning the film into a fluid labyrinth of doubles and likenesses, mirrors and reflections, where everything and everyone, even exhibits and paintings, bear a seductive gaze and the power of authority.
The film will be screened in French with Russian subtitles.
Portrait of the Artist
Dir. Antoine Barraud
France, 2014. 127 min. 18+