TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! I’m a huge art fan. When I was younger, I took art lessons, took classes in high school, and thought seriously about trying to go into art as a profession. I chose a different path, but as I travel the world, I always stop in every art museum I can, listen to every audio guide, watch all kinds of documentaries, and read books on art from time to time. So when I heard about Dalíland, directed by Mary Harron, written by John Walsh, and starring no less than Ben Kingsley as Dalí, of course, I had to see it.
Dalíland is appropriately named because it is as much about the world surrounding Salvador Dalí in his later years as it is about the man himself. The protagonist is actually James (Christopher Briney), an up-and-coming art gallery assistant who gets caught up in the whirlwind of the mercurial Dalí and the surrounding insanity. There’s an upcoming show, and Dalí is way behind, so he hires James as his assistant.
“…an up-and-coming art gallery assistant who gets caught up in the whirlwind of the mercurial Dalí…”
James quickly learns that Dalí’s wife, Gala (Barbara Sukowa), basically runs his life. She makes all the business deals and holds the artist to task, but she’s distracted by her obsession with Jeff Fenholt (Zachary Nachbar-Seckel). He’s the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar and dreams of a music career financed by Gala. Meanwhile, Dalí constantly distracts himself by partying with the likes of Alice Cooper (Mark McKenna), his muse Amanda Lear (Andreja Pejic), and other beautiful people. All the while, bags of cash are surreptitiously being transported all around, and James starts to suspect various people of fraud.
The ostensible drama in Dalíland is thin. It essentially amounts to whether or not Dalí will finish the minimum number of pieces he needs for his show and whether or not certain people are defrauding him. But none of that matters. The real delight here is the interpersonal relationships and getting to know the wildness of the orbit of Dalí. To impress the world’s most famous surrealist artists, you have to be beautiful, crazy, or both. Alice Cooper seems to be the most normal of the bunch, a fact used to comedic effect quite a few times.
"…raises interesting questions about cults of personality, our inability to deal with aging, and how we can use the people around us..."