Adrian Jacobs (Adam Goldberg) is an aspiring new age music composer who sees his art as something only to be appreciated by future generations. Madeline Gray (Marley Shelton) is the very attractive owner of a trendy Chelsea art gallery who sees the meaning of Adrian’s decidedly avant garde (read: weird) music. Together, they discuss the state of modern art and music in “(Untitled).”
Adrian sees his work as cutting edge, too intellectual for the average bear. He, and his tiny ensemble, uses buckets, chains and discordant noise to make their “music” and play for a less than packed concert hall – okay, maybe twenty people show up and two of them, Adrian’s parents, walk out on the performance. Meanwhile, his brother Josh (Eion Bailey), is a successful commercial artist whose bland, cookie cutter art sells like hotcakes, thanks to the backroom patronage of gallery owner Gray.
Madeline uses the lucrative earnings from Josh’s paintings to find her true calling: to exhibit the works of artists whose paintings and sculptures are as over the top as Adrian’s music. Her latest artiste, taxidermist Ray Barko (Vinnie Jones), uses his dead critters as the focus of his “art,” garnering interest from Gray’s art house competitor, who steals Barko away from Madeline. Gray turns to another artist, Monroe (Ptolemy Slocum), and plans an exhibition of his, to say the least, minimalist works. (One such work is a simple plastic push pin stuck into a bare white wall. The rest of his art is equally stark and, yes, stupid.)
Director Jonathan Parker, who co-wrote the script with Catherine DeNapoli, makes a statement about the contemporary New York art world and the ludicrous forms it takes. From Adrian’s non-tonal music to Barko’s dead sculptures (including a stuffed cow that will have a remarkable role in Ray’s rise to fame) and Munroe’s non-artistic art, it is a diatribe against the snobbery of the artists and their self-defined aloofness. The result is a social satire that is sometimes amusing in its depiction of the unlikable denizens that see themselves as superior to we poor mortals.
Techs are quite good, from Adrian’s strange stage performances to Madeline’s chic, goofy wardrobe and her gallery. The characters, unfortunately, are wrapped up in their own perceptions of their greatness and are an odious lot. This is fitting for the film but leaves the viewer without a character to like. The dark humor inherent in “(Untitled)” gets it a positive C+.
(Untitled) is a fictional satiric take on the same subject matter as the 2006 documentary "Who Gets to Call It Art?" Jonathan Parker's ("Bartleby") idea to contrast two brothers - commercial painter Josh Jacobs (Eion Bailey, "Almost Famous," "The Canyon") and out-there composer Adrian (Adam Goldberg, TV's "Friends," "Zodiac") - and put art merchant Madeline Gray (Marley Shelton, "Planet Terror," "The Perfect Getaway") between them, is a good one but after a few thoroughly amusing concert performances, that idea starts to feel like a one trick pony. Sly little touches, like Madeline's sound-producing clothing (a costume designer working in conjunction with a sound designer!), a drummer learning how to properly kick a bucket and a character (Lucy Punch, "Grindhouse," "St. Trinian's," wonderful!) known only as 'The Clarinet,' maintain interest while others, like Ray Barko (Vinnie Jones), an obvious riff on Damien Hirst, do not. Diverting, if a bit dry. C+
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