'Ossessione Vezzoli': Montreal Review

Courtesy of Montreal Film Festival
An unconvincing paean to a controversial art star.

Where the boundaries between fashion, money and art get very, very squishy.

A mess of a film about a celebrity artist whose love-it-or-hate-it oeuvre requires a far more cogent champion, Alessandra Galletta's Ossessione Vezzoli follows Francesco Vezzoli from one high-profile exhibition to another while barely trying to explain what is seen in him by the curators and tastemakers setting them up. It will do nothing to sway those inclined to see his output as star-struck, content-poor pastiche, and viewers unfamiliar with him may find the picture's strange take on his personality annoying enough to discourage investigation. It will likely be enjoyed by many of those who believe Vezzoli is an important player in contemporary art, but even in these quarters its aesthetics will disappoint discriminating cinephiles.

We are thrown full-speed into Vezzoli's output here, with clips of faux E! True Hollywood Story productions and Lady Gaga concerts slapped together willy nilly, sometimes stirring up such noise we can barely attend to Galletta's interviewees. While one supporter offers weak tea about "the artist as entertainer," celebrated curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist knows how to clothe his admiration in highbrow talk of Sergei Diaghilev and others whose creations consisted largely of gathering other talented people around them.

And what a crew Vezzoli has worked with. He made a fake perfume ad with Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, and Roman Polanski; imitated ancient sculptures and La Dolce Vita with Eva Mendes; had philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy imitate an American politician for a spoof of political campaigns. Sometimes, he had divas act out grand scenes in rooms where he sat ignoring them, doing needlepoint to add goofy fake tears to portraits of movie stars.

Galletta stalks Vezzoli as he preps big shows at Rome's MAXXI museum, Los Angeles' MoCA, and other institutions around the globe, but rarely talks to him long enough to provide much insight into what he intends with these works. Throughout, she returns to a space in which a fictional editor manipulates her material, forcing us to watch a computer monitor over his shoulder as multiple screens play video, Google image searches and the like. This advertisement for Ritalin builds over the course of the film, shifting focus to the "editor" and his growing fascination with his subject — a weird ruse that might have been fruitful in a more assured piece of filmmaking, but provokes exasperation and disgust here.

Production company: Vulcano

Director-Screenwriter: Alessandra Galletta

Producer: Giovanni Marta

Director of photography: Marco Brindasso

Editors: Andrea Giannone, Susanna Nasti

No rating, 75 minutes

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