Politically incorrect, and thought provoking
Susan E. Wood | Rochester, MI USA | 09/05/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a must-see for feminists and art historians although (or perhaps precisely BECAUSE) it may make you angry. It is a beautiful, intensely sympathetic study of the young Artemisia Gentileschi, her struggles to learn and grow as an artist in a society that makes it very difficult for her to do so, and her relationships with the men in her life. Artemisia has no desire to be the feminist role model that she later became (how could she? The word and concept of "feminism" didn't exist in her day), she just needed to paint. The part of this movie that infuriated feminists is its portrayal of her relationship with her much older and very disreputable teacher Tassi as consensual, rather than as a violent rape, followed by a relationship in which Artemisia reluctantly cooperated because he had promised her marriage. According to modern definitions, of course, Tassi was guilty of some form of rape, whether Artemisia said "yes" or "no," because she was only 17 at the oldest, and he took advantage of his position of power. But there may be some truth in the movie's version of their relationship; Artemisia wouldn't be the first or the last young woman to have a crush on an older teacher, and to try out her powers of sexual attraction without fully understanding the consequences. It's true that the movie probably whitewashes Tassi's character in order to portray his relationship with Artemisia as a love story. In the actual trial transcript, Artemisia mocked him bitterly when they applied the thumb-screws to her hands during testimony, saying, "This is the wedding ring you promised me!" If she had ever felt any affection for him, it was gone by then. But if you allow the film some leeway for artistic license, it presents a fascinating study of how even a seemingly devastating experience like the rape trial and scandal could be part of an artist's growth. Artemisia's later career was not that of a poor, wronged victim; she went on to become a very successful painter."
There are only stories about this painter, not THE true stor
Richard Burt | 07/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When the film came out in the U.S. in May, 1998, art historian Mary Garrard, who has written a book on Artemisia, along with feminist Gloria Steinnem put up a website attacking the film as untruthful in presenting what they say was Artemisia's rape by her teacher, Agostino Tassi. But as feminist Germaine Greer points out in her chapter on Artemisia in her book on women painters, the Obstacle Race, the rape trial transcripts are not transparent, and there is evidence that suport's Merlet's construction. (They may be found in an appendix to Garrard's book.) Garrard spins them her way (Artemsia was raped, didn't love Tassi; Greer spins them hers (Artemisia was raped, but came to love her rapist); Merlet spins them hers (Merlet loved her rapist from the start). Merlet's account of Artemisia is psychologically complex and is realy intersted in a feminism that departs from the standard rape narrative (woman undone permanently by traumatic experience caused by a man). Garrrd's accpunt was savaged bya number of feminist reviewers, adn most recently calleneged (in a friendly way) by Griselda Pollock in Differncing the Canon and by R. Ward Bissell in his book, Artemisia Gentileschi. The film is one of many fictonal afterlives, including a play by Sally Clark aind three novels, three of which have been translated into English. These are Anna Banti's, Marine Bramly's (the basis for the film) and Alexandra Lapierre's. They are entitled _Artemisia_. Raudi Jamis's French novel, also called Artemisia, has not been translated. In any case, taking Merlet's film on its terms and in relation to alternative feminist readings of Artemisia's life and paintings, I think one will find it intellectually refreshing in its departures from American "pop" feminism, aesthetically pleasing, and emotionally moving. If it gets you to go read the trial transcripts and to look at Artemisia's paintings, so much the better."
Sloppy, inaccurate period costume flick
Concerned Citizen | Anywheresville, USA | 10/30/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Everybody else has clarified for you that the REAL Artemisia's story is not told here and is actually "inverted", i.e. they turn the story of her rape into a consensual love affair. But that's far from the worst thing...I think the worst thing about this smarmy, heavy-breathing costume flick is that it makes the story of a brilliant woman painter's career into a story about who she sleeps with. And that's a terrible injustice. The least interesting thing about Artemisia Gentilleschi is her sex life. If this film had the slightest integrity it would have at least shown her paintings. If you viewed this movie and had no other knowledge of the artist and the historical period, you would come away feeling you had watched a 17th century version of the Red Shoe Diaries...i.e., softcore porn, in this case focused on the smarmily told sexual awakening of a pretty teenage girl. Ugh. You can skip this one... or watch if if you are an adult, but please please do not offer it up to a youngster, especially a girl, as any kind of "life of the artist" type of film (like the vastly superior "Frida" about Frida Kahlo), because this movie just sends absolutely the wrong kind of message to girls, that your sexuality is the most interesting thing about you, and talent is only another way to get laid."
Historical accuracy set aside for theatrical drama
Concerned Citizen | 08/08/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you are looking for a seventeenth-century period piece (full stop), this movie will satisfy your wishes. However, if you're looking for an accurate biography of "one of the first great women artists" (which is NOT necessarily the case--there were other notable female artists prior to this Baroque painter), DO NOT rely on this movie. Most frustrating is the portrayal of Gentileschi as a nearly mute pubescent girl in a constant state of sexual awakening (the rather steamy beach scene near the beginning of the movie is almost unbearable). Gentileschi's near silent portrayal is equally upsetting during the tumultuous events at the end of movie. While this reviewer does not want to give the plot away (although any recent art history book on Baroque painting can fill you in on the ups and downs of her life and career), Artemisia's silent demeanor was, according to historical records, NOT the actual situation (in other words, she did speak up for herself!). Interest in Gentileschi has peaked during the past few decades, with the rising interest in women's issues/feminist topics/etc. However, I am not sure whether this movie will help or hinder the average movie goer's understanding of this seventeenth-century artist. Keep this in mind, viewers!"