Movie Review: The Art Dealer (L’antiquaire)

By: 
John Thomas

Melchior (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), a prominent Paris art dealer, is invited to a near-empty home to determine if the remaining furnishings have any art value. Walking through the rooms he points out that one painting may be worth something but must be removed from the wall and that piece over there might be salable.

It’s when he comes to a large painting of two leopards that he stops walking to study the piece more carefully. He tells the woman who invited him that he’s not sure, but this painting might be by a famous painter, which means it could have substantial value at auction. “I’ll take it home with me to examine it more carefully,” he offers.

Ester (Anna Sigalevitch), Melchior’s wife, has just returned home from the post office where she collected a large padded envelope. Opening the envelope, she finds a note and a large reel of 16mm movie film. The note explains that the sender has nothing else to offer her and can’t bear to see the film but hopes she has the strength to do so.

She eventually locates a projector and views the film. It is of her with her family when she was a child. Her father was an important art dealer in Paris at the time of WWII and he had amassed a fortune and an extensive collection of works he displayed in both his gallery and home.

Seeing the footage from the 40s brings tears to Ester’s eyes. There, brought to life on the screen, she sees happier times with her beautiful mother and handsome father lounging in their sun filled garden. She also sees the familiar faces of family friends, particularly one man, Raoul (Michel Bouquet), who was appointed executor of her father’s estate.

She pauses the film at an interior scene showing herself and her mother laughing and hugging in front of a painting of two leopards. She begins to investigate the movement of the painting last seen in her home during the war to the present when it has reappeared in the film and presently actually in her home.

She confronts Raoul, who is also a noted Parisian art dealer, about the disappearance of her father’s collection of art. When her father was put to death during the war, her mother was to inherit the collection but didn’t. “What happened,” Ester asks? Raoul is dismissive of her questions and acts a bit confused as to what actually took place so long ago.

There are numerous commissions to recover art looted by the Nazis – she continues her inquiries with as many of them as she can. She is not as concerned as to where the painting has been but in blocking its sale and keeping it in her own family.

Her husband is obligated to put the painting up for auction as per the wish of the current owner. Rachel’s numerous claims to ownership of the painting to the looted art organizations have yet to produce results and the day of the auction is drawing near.

Auction day arrives and it finds Melchior at the podium in front of a group of buyers anxiously awaiting the appearance of the “two leopards”. Rachel is huddled in the back corner of the room as the painting is brought to the stage.

Directed by François Margolin (Credits: The Lie, Paris, the Visit) “The Art Dealer” is a “see” movie that runs 93 minutes

johan@beachcomber.news

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