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Reel Suspects Draws ‘Portrait of an Artist’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Bertrand Bonello starrer just selected for Berlin Fest’s Forum section

PARIS – Matteo Lovadina’s Paris-based Reel Suspects has boarded French director Antoine Barraud’s “Le Dos Rouge” (Portrait of an Artist), starring high-profile Gallic helmer Bertrand Bonello (“Saint Laurent,” “House of Tolerance”). Vet director Barbet Shroeder (“Single White Female,” “Murder By Numbers”) also has a cameo in the movie.

Co-starring Jeanne Balibar and Geraldine Pailhas, “Portrait” has just been selected for next month’s 65th Berlin Fest Forum section. It also screens Saturday

An auteur genre movie – Reel Suspects major speciality as a sales agent – “Portrait” turns on a renowned filmmaker who becomes obsessed by imagery of monstrosity, which he determines, will be central to his next film. Scouring for the perfect painting to illustrate his movie, he hires an art historian, plumbs the oeuvres of Bacon, Leon Spilliaert, Caravaggio, Theodore Chasseriau, Hans Bellmer and many others. But as the idea of “the monstrous” starts to take shape in is mind, a large red sore begins to fester on his back.

A tireless director-producer with a hectic one-decade career, Barraud helmed his feature film debut, “Les Gouffres” (“The Sinkholes”) with Nathalie Boutefeu and Mathieu Amalric, which screened at the 2012 Locarno Fest, along with Stephen Dwoskin’s “Age Is…,” which he produced. Barraud also co-produced with Homegreen Films Tsai Ming Liang’s “Madame Butterfly,” and helmed a long series of experimental shorts on figures such as Kenneth Anger, Shuji Terayama and Koji Wakamatsu. He directed his first short, “Monstre,” in 2005.

“I have always had a deep-felt, mysterious obsession with museums. Their apparent calm and solemnity in displaying what would be classified elsewhere as madness, psychiatry, beat-up lyricism,” Barraud said.

“Nonetheless, through time, I couldn’t avoid becoming a “hasty” visitor, more eager to “see” the paintings than actually “looking” at them. “Portrait of the Artist” took shape in an effort to counter this troubling trend. This need fused with the idea of putting together a personal panorama of monstrosity in art: The transfigured face of a young girl by Hans Bellmer, the skin disorders of a Brazilian slave in a painting by Joachim da Rocha, Leon Spilliaert’s emaciated figure in his self-portraits, the veiled and phantom-like gaze of Balthus’ “Alice”, and then Bacon, Caravaggio, and many more.

Bonello, who also scored the film, was surprised, “excited and terrified” to be offered the lead role, Barraud recalled.

“I imagined a gallery of strange and witty creatures for him to communicate with: His spouse, his producer, a historian, a young journalist and many others. The multiple faces and characters in this film are the expression of his own self. They all convey towards him. What makes this film exciting for me is the outcome of two different desires: Mine and his.

Vincent Wang, Cedric Walter and Barraud produce “Portrait”. It receives a market screening Saturday at Paris’ UniFrance Rendez-vous with French Cinema

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