The world of art and the world of satire are mutually exclusive, but certain projects blend the two with minimal failure. Think MAD Magazine and 1960s Britain. Much more common are the failures, which are too numerous to name. And then somewhere in the middle, where definitions become extremely objective and intentions are blurred for confusion's sake, there exists (Untitled). I guess it's a comedy, even though I audibly laughed only once. Or it may be a drama, because there's conflict and resolve. One thing's certain, it's a movie on DVD now.
Adam Goldberg is as quirkily impeccable as always, playing Adrian Jacobs, a composer working entirely within the scope of atonal music. He plays non-melodic piano over sporadic clarinet notes blown by The Clarinet (Lucy Punch) and percussion by Grant (Michael Panes). It's music as far from Top 40 radio as can be, but does that unjustify its existence? Of course not, because it's still music, even if you can't tap your feet to it. But not everybody understands that, and Adrian is ragingly complacent in knowing this.
Adrian's brother, Josh (Eion Bailey), is an artist in the most casual sense, using paint and large canvases. All of his work, presumably many dozens of pieces, consists of bright-colored splotches with three or four dark circles set in different places. The repetitive aesthetic isn't apparent to anyone, as his work is a big seller among large public places such as hospitals and offices.
His work is commissioned and sold through a gallery owned and operated by Madeline Gray (Marly Shelton), a wishy-washy woman consumed by self-importance and a need to appear as uncommercial as possible. She showcases artists like Ray Barko (Vinnie Jones), whose work includes taxidermied animals in bizarre situations, such as a cat stapled to a wall with a staple-gun in its paw. Incidentally, Barko's work and Jones himself are definite highlights. Is a primate vacuuming itself art? Initial thought may be negative, but it's in an art gallery, isn't it? If you put a pack of batteries on a plate on a dinner table, does that make it dinner? This movie doesn't deal with food, so we'll never know the answer to this.
Josh is clearly smitten by Madeline's pseudo-intellect, and finds romantic subtext where there isn't any. Madeline is actually attracted to Adrian, and they begin a strange tryst that is as brow-furrowing as anything else. Both seem to be using the other subconsciously, but to no real ends. Similar to this, a collector from Madeline's gallery, Porter (Zak Orth), commissions Adrian's group for a show, mainly because he's interested in The Clarinet. This doesn't really go anywhere, and it seems to me that The Clarinet has a thing for Adrian anyway, but it's not addressed.
The plot of (Untitled) sticks mostly to Adrian and his frustrations with himself. His music doesn't attract many people, but he's not interested in popularity; yet, he wants to find those few people that do connect with what he does. Competent in classical piano, he takes a few jobs playing weddings and things, but ends up sabotaging himself. Melodies allow people to stop paying attention, and this is what Adrian wants to combat. But only in music, because he doesn't understand most visual art, and feels nothing for it.
All in all, I'm not quite sure where director/co-writer Jonathan Parker stands on any of these issues. There's no doubt he's poking fun at the amazingly pretentious people that take part in this lifestyle. But Barko's art is actually kind of enjoyable, in a perverse way. And Adrian is obviously defensive of his music, but thoughtful enough to understand that it's not meant for a wide audience. And Josh eventually gets to the point where he's sick of his paintings becoming commercial and kitschy; he yearns for a show at Madeline's gallery, where "real" collectors converge. (Untitled) handles these points effectively, but it's only when the conclusions are reached that anything seems settled. And it all goes down easier than the rest of the movie, which makes me suspicious.
(Untitled) may or may not be art; I can't say. I enjoyed it, but not like I enjoy Monty Python or sushi. There were no warm feelings. When The Clarinet visits Porter and sees the majority of his owned art stuck in a large room, stacked and sorted, she questions his intentions. Porter explains that art collecting isn't about showing off, it's about personal taste and conviction. I wholeheartedly agree with this, as I collect things for no reason besides ownership. (Untitled) isn't a need-to-own movie, but anybody who thinks they're worth their weight in gold needs to view it with the quickness. Art for fart's sake.
There are no special features. Not even subtitles. I would have liked a virtual art gallery with all the pieces from the film. Nope. I don't get what I want.
Reviewed By: Nick Venable