TRUE FORM

Tim Bur­ton’s truth-is-weirder-than-fic­tion film paints a dra­matic pic­ture of artist Mar­garet Keane’s life with tyran­ni­cal hus­band, Wal­ter

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - PETER MITCHELL

Tim Bur­ton's lat­est master­piece

To many, Tim Bur­ton’s new bi­o­graph­i­cal drama Big Eyes would seem like an un­likely choice for the off­beat Los An­ge­les-raised, Lon­don-res­i­dent film­maker.

There’s few vis­ual ef­fects that have been the sta­ple of his three decades of hit movies, which in­clude Beetle­juice, Bat­man, Planet of the Apes, Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­tory and Alice in Won­der­land.

Big Eyes fol­lows the true story of Amer­i­can artist Mar­garet Keane, played by five-time Os­car nom­i­nee Amy Adams, from the 1950s through to 1986.

Bur­ton un­der­stands how some could see Big Eyes as a de­par­ture from his big sets and vis­ual tricks, but he also points to the truth-is-weirder-than-fic­tion story of Keane and her tyran­ni­cal hus­band, Wal­ter, who conned the world into think­ing her mass-sell­ing paint­ings were his work.

There may not be a caped cru­sader, talk­ing apes or the Mad Hat­ter, but Big Eyes con­tin­ues Bur­ton’s por­trayal of ec­cen­tric out­siders.

“Af­ter deal­ing with a lot of ef­fects and other things, yes it was nice to just kind of deal with ac­tors and just tell the story,” Bur­ton tells AAP in a re­cent in­ter­view in New York. “But this story was so strange. I thought it had a mix­ture of hu­mour, dark­ness and dys­func­tional re­la­tion­ships.”

Keane’s paint­ings be­came an in­te­gral part of pop cul­ture in the 1960s, with her sig­na­ture style the haunt­ing por­trayal of child waifs with huge, saucer­like eyes.

Crit­ics dis­missed the paint­ings, with one call­ing them “taste­less hack work”, but the public adorned their walls at home with Keane prints.

They just didn’t re­alise Mar­garet was se­cretly paint­ing them, while her hus­band was tak­ing all of the credit and lime­light for the works.

Wal­ter, played by Aus­tria’s two-time Os­car win­ner Christoph Waltz, made it easy for work­ing-class fam­i­lies to buy prints. He did deals with su­per­mar­kets to sell them for just a few dol­lars.

Bur­ton, who grew up in Los An­ge­les sub­ur­bia, re­mem­bers his par­ents putting Keanes on the walls of the fam­ily home.

“I’m very in­ter­ested in per­cep­tion be­cause I re­mem­ber when I was a child, I found the Keane paint­ings quite dis­turb­ing, but some peo­ple loved them and had them hang­ing in their living rooms,” he says. “That’s the thing. Grow­ing up the way I did, we didn’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween a print or a paint­ing. It was just art that was hang­ing on the wall.”

Bur­ton, an artist in his own right who had his draw­ings, paint­ings, sto­ry­boards, pho­to­graphs and other works ex­hib­ited at New York’s Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, Mel­bourne’s Aus­tralian Cen­tre for the Mov­ing Im­age and other gal­leries around the world in 2010, be­came a fan of Keane’s work.

He first met Keane in 1995 and com­mis­sioned her to do some paint­ings for him, in­clud­ing fam­ily por­traits with his for­mer part­ner He­lena Bon­ham Carter and their two chil­dren Billy, 11, and Nell, 7.

Keane re­mains a friend, spent hours with the screen­writ­ers, Bur­ton and Adams, and was a regular on the film set. She did my kids’ eyes,” Bur­ton smiles.

“She did one eye, the boy and the girl, and they’re char­coal. Given the fact her style is not overly re­al­is­tic, it’s in­cred­i­ble how she cap­tured their eyes.

“She’s good, not that I didn’t know that but it just showed me the power of her work”.

Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in a scene from Tim Bur­ton’s new bi­o­graph­i­cal drama

Big Eyes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.