(Directed by Jesus Garces Lambert) (2019)
Made to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, “Amazing Leonardo” has its moments but seems to suffer from constraints of more than budget.
This is potted dramatic biography of the great artist, of which much is known through his notes and the art history of Vasari; here we tend to focus mainly on work during his patronage in Milan by its Duke, Ludovico Sforza, (informed by the work of art historian Pietro C. Marani of the Politecnico di Milano, who assisted Walter Isaacson in his recent book.)
Italian A-lister Luca Argentero (Eat Pray Love) plays Leonardo, who seems neither to age nor change clothes from 1475 to 1519, and we see several episodes from his life: apprenticeship under Verrocchio on Baptism of Christ, his nascent solo work such as the Annunciation, the extraordinary but unfinished Adoration of the Magi, the famous portraits, the Virgin of the Rocks, and the Last Supper, re-imagined here as a cinematic set piece.
It is a pleasant show – worthy emoting, a few nice locations (though Leo’s studio throughout seems as changeless as his face or clothes), tasteful addition of music, and via C.G.I., some surreal touches, but it doesn’t come close to encapsulating Vinci’s genius (indeed, what could, apart from gazing at the paintings?)
Within the limits we have hinted at and featuring a cast small as an Ed Albee play, the film relies on thoughts spoken by Leo and others, and much is made of the polymath’s relentless curiosity and multi-faceted talents (though his maths were poor and his war machines never tested). The result is pretty thin; the best thing about this production is that it may inspire a new bunch of talents to look more closely at a talent that puts them – all – in the shade.