It’s a discussion on the nature and value of art. It’s a character study in the art of lying and deceit. It’s also a crime thriller. Sometimes filmmakers try to cram too many elements into their films, and for skilled filmmakers, sometimes it works. From director Giuseppe Capotondi comes an art thriller, character study in The Burnt Orange Heresy that works.
James Figueras (Claes Bang) is a well-known art critic, and he is on a European lecture tour discussing the nature of art criticism. He argues whether the quality of art is based solely on what appears on the canvas, or does art find its value in the story behind it.
In the middle of his lecture enters Berenice Hollis (Elizabeth Debicki)—an American traveling through Europe. After a brief discussion about his lecture, James and Berenice head to James’ room for an extended one-night stand, and the two discuss the process of how they’re never going to see one another again. But that changes.
“It’s a discussion on the nature and value of art. It’s a character study in the art of lying and deceit.”
Changing his find, James asks Berenice to accompany him to an Italian villa at Lake Como for a “job” at the request of renowned art collector Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger). The “job” is for James to “interview” famed artist Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland), who is staying in the guest house at Cassidy’s villa. Debney’s art is rare. His style is minimalistic and feels like it was thrown together in some brilliant fashion. No one owns a “Debney” as his previous work was destroyed in a fire, thus making his new art even more valuable.
Cassidy wants James to “interview” and befriend Debney in hopes of stealing Debney’s painting. Berenice is there to serve as a “distraction,” and she is unknowingly good at her job. But the heist reveals itself to be more complicated than anticipated.
There are essentially two parts to The Burnt Orange Heresy. The first half establishes this world of deception in the business of art, both from the standpoint of the artist and the buyer. James is the perfect mark for the job. Now, a burn-out art critic, who travels the world with the same tired lecture. He needs something new to jumpstart his fame. He understands the importance of “story” behind the art and being the first to see (and steal) Debney’s new work will make him beyond famous.