A few days ago I finally caught up with Giuseppe Tornatore‘s last film, The Best Offer (La Migliore Offerta, 2013). I believe the film did not get much attention when it came out but I it is, in my opinion, a sophisticated and entertaining piece that deserves a watch.
Tornatore, best known for his Academy Award winning film Cinema Paradiso, tackles in this occasion the intersection between life and art through the perspective of the eccentric and mysterious auctioneer, Virgil Oldman, masterfully played by the talented Geoffrey Rush. Mr. Oldman is a loner whose entire existence is dedicated to the acquisition and auctioning of precious works of art in detriment of every other aspect of his private life. This includes contact, proximity or intimacy with other human beings. He seeks a pristine, calculated perfection in his surroundings that can only be achieved by excluding most people from his sphere of trust.
We soon learn about his only obsession is his collection of oil paintings portraying captivating women . It is the only form of passion he knows as real love is absent from his life. It is quite clear that he didn’t acquire these paintings through the most honest means. Mr. Oldman, unlike many of his clients, has a keen eye to identify fake works of art and to assess the value of any collection of art, a capacity for which he’s sought after and which benefits him when he desires to dupe clients out of artworks he wants to keep for himself.
However, the skills that have allowed him maneuver so comfortably in the art world become useless when a mysterious young woman called Claire Ibbetson (played with great finesse by Dutch actress, Sylvia Hoeks) requests his expertise in order to auction off the vast collection of antiques left to her by her parents. What should be simple routine will turn his life upside down. Claire proves to be far more reclusive and eccentric than Virgil himself. For fifteen years she has refused to let other people see her and she only communicates with others from her bedroom. This only makes her more alluring and fascinating in Virgil’s eyes. For the first time in his life he experiences passion and obsession for a woman in the much the same as for the precious objects he collects. As their relationship grows more intimate, he realizes his genius for the art world does not equip him to function properly in a love affair. Virgil suddenly feels emotionally naked, unable to cope with his feelings for Claire. At every step of the way he fears deception to the extent that he must ask himself: Is it possible in love, like in art, to produce a fake that is almost like the real thing? If there is deception, would he be able to detect it as he would do in his profession? Or is it beyond his nature? Tornatore will delight you with unexpected twists and turns and some hints of a Hitchcock-like thriller as Virgil struggles to find the answer…