A"Faust" reworking lifted by a few visually catchy passages and a dandy musical score, "The Devil's Colors" maintains a compelling level of suspense before petering out on a punch line that's not nearly as much fun as what preceded it. Tale of a gifted but broke painter who achieves instant success once he's befriended by a sinister benefactor is a sort of low-rent "Angel Heart" set in the art world. Ruggero Raimondi's marquee value may help with theatrical bookings before pic finds its true niche on cable. Painter Nicolas Morgan (Wadeck Stanczak) is part of a trendy group show at the Rome art gallery of Sherri (Andrea Ferreol). He and his work are spotted by enigmatic man-about-town Bellisle (Raimondi), who asks Nicolas if he'd like to be famous and successful. Nicolas takes the bait, and Bellisle summons him in the middle of the night to witness a suicide in progress --- a teen's leap from a window ledge.

This so inspires the painter that he works 19 hours straight on a new canvas, neglecting his musician g.f. (Bettina Giovannini) in the bargain. An accident at a sporting event and a murder (at the fetchingly named “666 Club”) follow, each grisly event leading to fabulous paintings that sell like hot cakes to enigmatic wealthy folks.

A local cop (Luca Zingaretti) is intrigued by the uncanny detail in Nicolas’ canvases, and a randy painter’s model (Isabelle Pasco) takes an intense carnal interest in Nic as pic unfolds.

There’s something inherently appealing about reworking “Faust” with an escape clause, but New Wave-era vet Alain Jessua paints the action with strictly utilitarian strokes. Pic surges to life only via intercutting when Nicolas imagines a painting take shape while witnessing a live crisis.

Thesps get the story across without undue fuss, and stuntwork and accompanying lensing are also effective. Jazz wiz Michel Portal’s odd syncopated score is as inventive as the dialogue is pedestrian.

The Devil's Colors

French - Italian

Production

A Swift release (in France) of a Les Films de l'Astre, AJ Films (France)/Production Group (Rome) production, in association with Medusa Film (Rome) and with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: Studio Canal Plus, Boulogne-Billancourt.) Produced by Sergio Gobbi. Executive co-producer, Francesca Noe. Directed by Alain Jessua. Screenplay, Jessua, Roger Curel, based on the novel "Cold Eye" by Giles Blunt.

Crew

Camera (color), Pasqualino De Santis; editor, Helene Plemiannikov; music, Michel Portal; art direction, Marta Zani; costume design, Gianna Gissi; sound (Dolby Digital), Paul Laine, Claude Villand; original paintings, Paolo Picozza; special effects, Fabio Galliano; casting, Mirta Guarnaschelli. Reviewed at Gaumont Les Halles Theater, Paris, Jan. 26, 1997. Running time: 83 MIN. (French dialogue)

With

Bellisle ..... Ruggero Raimondi Nicolas ..... Wadeck Stanczak Valerie ..... Isabelle Pasco Sherri ..... Andrea Ferreol Peter ..... Jose Quaglio Marc Lauzon ..... Luca Zingaretti Nicolas' Girlfriend ..... Bettina Giovannini Leo ..... Philippe Dajoux
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