John Seven | Viewer's Discretion: Documentary on art forger, Welsh drama keep you tuned in
'ART AND CRAFT' (AMAZON, FANDOR, HOOPLA, SUNDANCE NOW)
When I think of art forgers, I think of crafty con men who are in it for the big money, so Mark Landis, the subject of "Art and Craft," went against what I envisioned.
Landis is an art forger, but a quirky one. He gives his art away and, since there is no money involved, no swindle being made other than professional pride, he hasn't committed an arrestable offense. His forgeries appear to be compulsions, as are the transactions to pass them off to museums, and it builds into a strange tale about an odd man that has you wondering what else he might be pulling our leg about.
Landis gifts his paintings to museums and embellishes his story to make them seem more legitimate. Sometimes that involves a fictional sister, sometimes it means he dresses up like a priest. He's a good enough forger that his work has slipped by numerous institutions across the country, none of which seem to have caught on until Matthew Leininger, from the Oklahoma City Museum of Art caught on.
Landis is alternately detached and charming. He can at one moment seem wandering and lost in his thought process, and then at the next make it seem like he's completely played you. He has a very odd charm, while at the same time has that off-putting demeanor of someone who isn't all there. The film follows him through his art process, but also his day-to-day existence, which is unassuming and largely solitary.
Leininger is also featured and comes off as quirky himself. He's obsessed with Landis to the point that he seems to have schooled his young daughter on all the details and has some odd exchanges with her about it. He lost his job over Landis — not because of Landis' actions, but because Leininger couldn't let go of what happened and his pursuit of Landis seems to have interfered with his job.
Of course, it's embarrassing for the institutions to be fooled, as they like to present an infallibility to the general public, and that may be one of Landis' great gifts as a trickster. But in the end, his story shows that his swindle doesn't end with his forgeries and that the museums are permanent captives of his efforts. If you can't beat `em, join `em — that's all I'll say about it, but it's a highly entertaining, highly insightful journey to that point.
'KEEPING FAITH' (ACORN TV)
This Welsh suspense melodrama begins as one thing, but rapidly becomes something else, though your enjoyment of it might hinge on your embrace of lead actress Eve Myles. Myles plays lawyer Faith Howells, who has left her practice to attend to her newborn baby, along with two daughters. Her husband still runs the practice, and you get the sense that this is a care-free series about an energetic woman living the perfect life in scenic Wales.
But the cracks begin to appear when Faith tries to contact her husband and can't find him. And hours pass and she still can't track him down. Then longer and longer, with no sign of him.
Eve's personal search for her husband forms the center of the action. A maelstrom of conflict with the investigating detective makes Eve not trust the police, and so she works silently to uncover what happens to her husband, to the point that it puts her in conflict with the detective, who targets her, and in the middle of various local crime figures, some trying to help her, others trying to hurt her.
Myles is one of those actresses that dominates any moment she's in. Her energy can't be contained, and that is used to create much of the anguish of the series, as well as the careening investigation that seems doomed. All twists and turns are the result of bouncing off Myles' kinetic performance style, and that gives the series a singular quality. Would this even work without her? I don't know. But with her, it's a rollicking ride with a quaint Welsh backdrop that does keep you tuned in.
John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me
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