Giuseppe Capotondi (The Double Hour) directs “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” based on the novel by Charles Willeford. The film has an old fashioned charm with edges of suspense from the past. The narrative is teasingly slow but then builds with a rhythm all its own. It is a meditation on one-upmanship.
James Figueras (Claes Bang) is an art critic who spins tall tales. He is hungry for fame. During a lecture, he meets the mysterious pale Berenice (Elizabeth Debicki). He also meets with sneaky art dealer Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger) who gives him a harsh offer: deliver a painting by the reclusive painter Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland) or face charges of embezzlement.
Cassidy feels at once like a hissing devil, and as incarnated by Jagger one does not mind him chewing the scenery. The star is all the more entertaining.
James feels his hands are tied. He just wants to pop pills and make love to the icy Berenice, but James begins to worry. Is she making fun of him or setting him up for professional failure?
Sutherland plays the sarcastic painter well. Debney is a sardonic Van Gogh, daydreaming of the perfect blue. Nothing fazes him. He even plays a joke on the art world by exhibiting empty frames.
Each episode vexes the vain James. And then there are the black flies. These are about ten times more menacing than the one that alighted on the vice president’s head.
No character is very likable here. But that comes with the territory. James boxes himself in by his own ego and lust for notoriety. Though there are obvious shades of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” with its talk of art and savagery, “The Burnt Orange Heresy” has enough suspense to keep you guessing.
Mick Jagger as the scaly yet smooth art- lounge lizard seems to have the most fun playing his role. His Joseph Cassidy is certainly the most enjoyable and indeed, he gets the last laugh.
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