Scott Brown
December 03, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Belle Epoque

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
Fernando Fernan Gomez, Jorge Sanz, Penelope Cruz
director
Fernando Trueba
distributor
Sony Pictures Classics
genre
Foreign Language, Comedy, Romance

We gave it a B+

Syphilitic, sybaritic dance-hall hedonism is hard to foster at classy Lincoln Center, and at first, Martha Clarke’s terpsichorean peek into the pungent personal realm of stunted painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — his ecstatic and apocalyptic embrace of death-by-pleasure, his use and abuse of his Moulin Rouge muses, his defiant equation of the gorgeous and the gangrenous — stalls a bit, as if choking on the cleanliness of its venue and viewers. But Clarke’s sad, slow dance of decline (set to the music of classical masters and crass balladeers, and mise-en-scéne lifted from the painter’s own ”immortal rubbish”) ultimately hypnotizes, while avoiding any glittery melodramatic Luhrmannizing.

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