In 1957, American artist Walter Keane presented his new series of portraits depicting sad children with enormous eyes to a great popular reception.
The paintings, and prints of the paintings, sold like hotcakes and Keane amassed a fortune as a result. There was a problem, though – the pictures were actually created by his wife Margaret. A patron of Margaret, Tim Burton, directs his best film in years, covering the story of Margaret Keane’s struggle to reclaim her artistic soul.
The first thing that strikes you about Tim Burton‘s new film is the colour. At first glance, each shot looks like a painted backdrop, crafted in flawless water colour hues. But they are quite real and are testament to Burton’s eye for detail and passion for a story that he holds close to his heart.
Burton muses over what makes art. Is art determined by the illuminati who decide what ‘good art’ is? Is it determined by what is popular? Is it determined by the (perceived) artist? Is it determined by authenticity? Is it determined by the effectiveness of the salesman? Or is art absolute – determined only by its own qualities? Or can it be any or all of these things?
Burton’s movies have been decidedly hit or miss in recent times – his first fifteen years as a director are definitely better then his second – but Big Eyes may well mark a quality turn into a new phase sans the freak shows of his prior efforts (though, in a sense, Big Eyes is still about freaks).