The Burnt Orange Heresy (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

The Burnt Orange Heresy (2019) is the new film directed by Giuseppe Capotondi, and it is a compelling think piece with great performances from its cast – even a surprising one from an individual who is traditionally not an actor. A film that is mostly dialogue manages to feel intense like there was more going on than people sitting in a room. The first hour is very strong, and the third act waivers a little bit – but it doesn’t derail the film entirely. In its final moments, it manages to regain some of its earlier luster, leaving a positive feeling as the credits roll. 

James Figueras (Claes Bang) is an art critic who is presented with an opportunity to interview an iconic artist, Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland). While giving a lecture before departing for the interview, James meets Berenice Hollis (Elizabeth Debicki), and is immediately taken by her. He invites her to accompany him to Joseph Cassidy’s (Mick Jagger) estate, where the interview will be possible.

Debicki continues to impress with every film she is in. She commands every scene she is in, whether it’s her speaking, silently sitting, or interacting with the other performers. The chemistry she has with each of the other actors in this film is one of the reasons it connects so easily. There is a scene where Berenice and Jerome are chatting, and there is such a natural connection between them that it makes the film’s tone and mood really click. 

Jagger was definitely the biggest surprise in the film. Not the best performance by any means, but one that had very little expectations going in. His performance feels like one, but his character seems slightly surreal, making the bigness of his choices work perfectly. 

Claes Bang is also very good and is tasked with the challenge of making the audience unclear about his character. The introduction of James has him preparing for a lecture crosscut, with him actually delivering the lecture to a room full of people. He is showing a piece of art, and explaining why its mundanity is shed once you know the backstory of the artists. His story is compelling, but rehearsed – yet is still capable of winning over those in attendance. The theme introduced in this sequence emanates throughout the film, and Capotondi does a great job telling this story visually. 

The Burnt Orange Heresy offers its audience much to digest. It is, in some ways, a scathing indictment of critics. The film offers a lot of fantastic moments of witty dialogue delivered by great actors, earning the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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