Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Woman in Gold


We feel a special connection with this movie. It involves the legal fight to return five Gustav Klimpt paintings to the woman whose family they were stolen from by the fucking Nazis. For fifty years they were in the possession of a long-time receiver of stolen goods, namely the government of Austria. It’s no secret that, after a long and nasty legal fight (by the Austrians), they were returned to Maria Altmann, the rightful owner. Very shortly after that the paintings were loaned to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for a showing that lasted only a few months. Lee and I were lucky enough to view them twice before they were auctioned off. Although all the paintings are wonderful, the centerpiece of the collection was undoubtedly Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, the woman in gold of the title. She was called the Mona Lisa of Austria, that’s how badly the thieves wanted to hang on to her.

(Ronald Lauder paid $135,000,000 for it, with the stipulation that she remain on public display. At the time it was the most money ever paid for a work of art. Since then five paintings have sold for more, and there’s only one of them, a nice Gauguin, that I’d give wall space to. Second place is a no-better-than-okay Cézanne. Rounding out the list are a supremely ugly de Kooning, a Picasso that at least has some color in it, and a disastrously dirtied piece of canvas from the studio floor of Jackson Pollock, called No. 5, 1948. I’d love to go on a real rant about modern art here, but I don’t have the time. Maybe next rant.)

The movie is satisfying without being outstanding in any way. It’s always nice to see a mighty institution brought low by a determined smaller party with justice on her side. Helen Mirren is as much fun as usual. Other than that the only thing worth noting, for me, was the appearance of the insanely and uniquely talented Tatiana Maslany as the younger Maria, in Austria with the war impending. She only has the one part to play here, not the dozen she handles so well in Orphan Black, but there’s really not much for her to do other than look stricken and run a lot. Oh, yeah, except for a few lines near the end, the role is entirely in German, one of three languages she speaks. (Also English and French, with a nodding acquaintance with Spanish.) Some people are almost too talented.