UK, 90 min.

director.gif (905 bytes)  Duncan Ward


Gillian Anderson - Jean Maclestone
Skarsgård - Bob Maccelstone
Alan Cumming - Dewey Dalamanatousis
Heather Graham - Beth Freemanatle
Danny Huston - Art Spindle
Jack Huston - Jo Richards
Christopher Lee - Mr. Alfred Rhinegold
Joanna Lumley - Mrs. Alfred Rhinegold
Simon McBurney - Robert Freign
Meredith Ostrom - Joany
Charlotte Rampling - Emille
Amanda Siefried - Paige Prideaux
Jaime Winstone - Elaine
Gemma Atkinson - Charlotte Bailey
Jan Uddin - Art's partner


Edinburgh Film Festival - June 26, 2009
Cambridge Film Festival - September 2009
Dinard Festival of British Cinema - November 2009



Set against the backdrop of contemporary London, this new British film is a tongue-in-cheek look at the international art scene, in which lust, ambition and power prevail and where success and failure rest on a knife edge. When a well known art dealer becomes aware of a priceless painting, he unleashes all his powers of persuasion to encourage its owners, an aging couple, to part with their prized possession. However, when his assistant leaks this information to her wealthy lover, the situation becomes complicated. Friendships and marriage all hang in the balance.

Meanwhile, we observe the artists and curators all desperately vying for the attention of the dealers and collectors, some of whom are willing to use any means necessary to achieve their ambitions. These include a talented and ambitious video artist who creates a 'Self Portrait' which includes her explicit exploits with her lovers, a well-meaning but out-of-his-depth curator and a slightly sinister secretary. When all their stories collide, the results are deliciously depraved and extreme.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)PRODUCTION NOTES

Produced by Danny Moynihan and written by Danny Moynihan, Kami Naghdi, Christopher Simon and Cat Villiers, production took place in London England in December 2006.

The following is a synopsis of the book: The hip, trendy New York art scene provides the backdrop for Moynihan’s satiric debut novel, a montage-like collection of scenes in which the author tries to mimic structurally the energy of the Mondrian masterpiece that links the fates of his art world characters. Moynihan introduces his wacky crew in rapid-fire succession. At the top of the heap is Art Spindle, a powerful gallery owner who shows the work of established artist Jo Richards and fights to extract money from rich patrons like the elderly Rhinegolds. Lower down on the totem pole are up-and-coming agent Beth Freemantle, who eventually opens her own gallery, and intriguing young artist Elaine Yoon-Jung Yi, a lesbian who seduces and stalks her paramours and then turns her sexual escapades into video pieces. What comes after the introductions is a nonstop series of scenes and snippets from the lives of the various characters, covering deals, conversations and sexual encounters that wander into some kinky terrain …



Review by Allan Hunter, Screen Daily:
"Boogie Woogie" is a plucky attempt to craft the kind of all-star, multi-story mosaic that came so naturally to the the late Robert Altman. The art world is fertile ground for any budding satirist but the subject matter already feels stale and whilst it raises the odd smile, Boogie Woogie never hits the mark as a trenchant morality tale. The stellar cast might prove an attraction for an older demographic but it is difficult to discern a theatrical audience for Duncan Ward’s debut feature. It is easy enough to snigger at these shallow lives and grasping individuals but the film struggles when it requires them to be taken seriously.

Danny Moynihan’s novel "Boogie Woogie" offered scathing vignettes of the 1990s New York art scene and the author has shifted the setting to London for his own screen adaptation. The focus here is on the friendly rivalry between rapacious art dealer Art Spindle (Danny Huston) and prolific collector Bob Maccelstone (Stellan Skarsgard). The competition intensifies over the purchase of a Mondrian Boogie Woogie painting owned by the elderly, impoverished Alfred Rhinegold (Christopher Lee). Rhinegold stubbornly refuses to sell but his wife Alfreda (Joanna Lumley) might be more amenable, especially when the offers start to nudge the £20 million mark.

The fate of the Mondrian painting threads through a loose narrative which stretches to include the amorous antics of Macclestone’s restless wife Jean (Gillian Anderson), Spindle protege Beth (Heather Graham) and her decision to establish her own gallery, punky lesbian artist Elaine (Jaime Winstone) and the various betrayals, deceptions and background scheming that swirls around them.

"Boogie Woogie" takes some easy potshots at people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Christopher Lee’s Rhinegold is the film’s last apostle of decency, clinging to the Mondrian because he bought it directly from the artist and it is has a significance that transcends filthy lucre. Everyone else is simply out for what they can get, whether that is money, sex or fame. Spindle’s office is dominated by a sign saying Trust Me, underlining the obvious irony that flavours the film.

It is easy enough to snigger at these shallow lives and grasping individuals but the film struggles when it requires them to be taken seriously. The sketchy nature of the storyline results in predictable mini-dramas with little depth or substance, such as the Tracey Emin-like Elaine using footage of her sexual conquests in a video installation, or Bob and Jean’s marriage ending in a squabble over paintings, property and poodles rather than emotional issues. These are shallow individuals whose collective lives never coalesce into a gripping narrative.

The performances of the ensemble cast vary from the exaggerated to the personable with Stellan Skarsgård’s wry, rueful Bob one of the most naturalistic and engaging in the ensemble. Danny Huston’s Art has a touch of the pantomime villain to him as the actor employs a repertoire of insincere smiles and staccato cackles to suggest the empty bonhomie of a relentless opportunist.

Review by Leslie Felperin, Variety:
Blighty's contempo art scene, in all its venality and outright absurdity, is crying out for a good, scalding satire. What a shame that the black comedy "Boogie Woogie" delivers little more than a lukewarm spoof. Debutant helmer Duncan Ward and scribe Danny Moynihan (adapting his novel) are clearly aiming for an Altmanesque portrait of a milieu, but despite an impressive cast, the flat script and clumsy helming hardly put this in the same league as "Ready to Wear," let alone "The Player" or "Nashville." Unless PR and marketing departments get the tune exactly right, "Boogie" will remain a B.O. wallflower.

Several helicopter shots of the Thames ram home the point that the action is set in London, although actual street views are few and far between. Here, amoral art dealer Art Spindle (Danny Huston) runs a gallery that employs ambitious Beth Freemantle (Heather Graham) and rollerskating ingenue Paige (Amanda Seyfried).

Spindle is desperate to buy a Mondrian, titled "Boogie-Woogie," off ailing Germanic tycoon Alfred Rhinegold (Christopher Lee, with a beard that makes him look like Michael Haneke), but Rhinegold's wife (Joanna Lumley) and secretary (Simon McBurney) play Spindle off against rival bidders, including voracious collector Bob Maclestone (Stellan Skarsgard). Maclestone is having an affair with Beth, while his wife Jean (Gillian Anderson) beds upcoming artist Jo Richards (Jack Huston), who's supposedly going out with Beth.

Meanwhile, Beth is keen to open her own gallery using money from Maclestone and plans to exhibit the work of artist Elaine (Jaime Winstone), a sexually predatory lesbian whose salacious video diary will rep the centerpiece of her first show. Like nearly everyone here, Elaine is willing to betray any friend or lover to get what she wants, even her best-friend/manager Dewey (Alan Cumming), the pic's only sympathetic character.

Moynihan's novel was originally set in the New York art scene, in which the author swam for a while as an artist and curator. The relocation of the story to London may explain why its tone feels several shades off the mark throughout. When characters here talk about aesthetics, the guff sounds like regurgitated bits from Artforum; when they're just talking normally, it sounds like wooden, soap opera-speak. It all seems a waste of a cast that, collectively, might have been more than up to the task of something more improvisational in the style of Altman.

One would think helmer Duncan Ward -- whose eclectic resume includes a docu about Polish artist Leon Tarasewicz, and who is married to powerful British curator Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst -- would have known how to recalibrate the script to get the nuances of the milieu right. Unfortunately, the helming throughout is strictly pedestrian.

The British art scene's ultimate insider, the artist Damian Hirst, is flatteringly mentioned in the dialogue and credited onscreen as the pic's "art curator." (Many of the artworks shown here -- nearly all of them by name artists such as Bruce Nauman, Gavin Turk and the Chapman Brothers -- are known to be in Hirst's collection.) It's tempting to speculate that his involvement may have inhibited the filmmakers from crafting a more savage, incisive portrait, lest Hirst's chums were offended.

Even technically, the pic reps a subpar effort, from the shoddy lensing, credited to John Mathieson, to the old-fashioned, intrusive jazz score by Janusz Podrazik and Nigel Stone. The somewhat incoherent final reels suggests emergency triage in the editing room, which means pic at least has a brisk running time.

Financial Times (UK):
Based on Danny Moynihan’s notoriously à clef novel of New York’s artists, dealers and collectors, the plot has been transplanted across the pond with a distinguished Anglo-American cast, and has suffered a sea change into something rich and banal.

The multi-strand stories of connivers, lechers and modish self-advertisers make one long for Altman. Rather than richly disparate, the movie seems merely fragmented. Director Duncan Ward’s first feature gives glimpses of the requisite swish and style but none of the characters are more than token villains or martyrs and you wait for something to unite the bittily episodic. Danny Huston’s wolfish charm as a (double, triple) dealer recalls Jack Nicholson as a panto villain. Gillian Anderson does a self-conscious grande dame turn as a millionaire collector’s wife who pleasures young artists as avidly as her husband grabs art – any art – while the film proceeds to equate acquisitiveness with lust, art with sex.

The general bile is relieved by Christopher Lee’s brief appearance as the dying owner of the eponymous Mondrian, the object of scheming cupidity throughout the film. This genuine art lover adds decency to the Hogarthian roistering – though given that he is an unbelievably wealthy plutocrat, it is hard to understand his wife’s (Joanna Lumley) worries about penury. A glitzy cast (Charlotte Rampling, Alan Cumming, Heather Graham) makes a token effect. Abrasively consistent, uncompromisingly real, Jaime Winstone emerges as the one convincing human being, a cockney lesbian video-artist whose autobiography ruthlessly films everything from Sapphic sex to suicide. Otherwise the film fumbles too many chances (custody squabbles over poodles, a gift-wrapped foetus): it should have been blacker and funnier.

The Herald:
This sardonic adaptation of Danny Moynihan's 2000 novel does for the art world what Robert Altman's caustic satire The Player did for Hollywood. Reworking his own book, Moynihan and director Duncan Ward, who has made a number of art-themed documentaries and who is married to a well-known curator, have made a fine job of relocating the action from New York to contemporary London.

In this post-YBA landscape, we meet a slew of shallow, self- centred, greedy and morally bankrupt individuals, all of whom shaft one another both figuratively and literally. Among them are Danny Huston's dealer and Heather Graham's disloyal PA, who are intent on purchasing one of Mondrian's Boogie Woogie paintings from Christopher Lee's elderly owner and conniving wife Joanna Lumley, Stellan Skarsgård's philandering collector and Gillian Anderson's equally adulterous trophy wife, and Jaime Winstone's up-and-coming video artist and the agent she unceremoniously dumps. That last is played by Alan Cumming, and it's telling that his character, along with Lee's art lover - the only half decent people in the film - end up sharing the same fate.

The ensemble cast have a blast playing a collection of utter swines, and although this is far too dark a portrait to be a laugh-out-loud comedy, it's nevertheless a deliciously nasty experience

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy, Den of Geek:
"Boogie Woogie" is a multi-narrative British film based around the London art scene, full of collectors, artists and various hangers-on. Art Spindle (a devilish Danny Huston, turning his character's snickering into a running joke), a dishonourable art dealer, is trying to get his hands on a Piet Mondrian painting - the Boogie Woogie of the title - but is challenged by rival Bob Maccelstone (Stellan Skarsgård), and both face the difficulty of actually convincing long-term owner Alfred Rhinegold (Christopher Lee) to give up the painting.

Meanwhile, Dewey (Alan Cumming) is finding out the hard way that nice guys finish last, Rhinegold's wife Alfreda (Joanna Lumley) and butler Robert (Simon McBurney) are secretly trying to up the value of the Mondrian, and everyone professionally involved with Maccelstone and Rhinegold are sleeping with each other like Twin Peaks' pilot.

Despite the presence of Damien Hirst as a consultant and a cameo from Gaetano Jouen, Duncan Ward's film doesn't offer any real insight to what the post-YBA art scene is, which is a shot in the foot for a satire. Danny Moynihan, adapting from his own novel, decides to simply drop artists' names into characters' conversations while teaching us that people are ruthless in the search for success. Well, duh. To illustrate this, director Duncan Ward falls into a dull visual style, allowing his film to look like an ITV movie and showing a clumsy hand in keeping a consistent tone throughout.

It's a shame, because the art world could do with being knocked down a few notches in a smart, vibrant manner. However, it seems that everyone involved with Boogie Woogie is confused as to what film they're actually making. Ward is unsure whether to make his satire a biting drama or a cruel comedy; instead of writing an appropriate score, Janusz Podrazik hits the 'light jazz' demo on his Casio; editor Kant Pan cuts haphazardly in the middle of scenes, killing any natural flow.