The Price of Desire 

 

Half

 

 

A well-intentioned but flat attempt to study the emotional and artistic bonds and conflicts that linked three architects over more than three decades.

 

Price of Desire, The

Design for love: Francesco Scianna and Orla Brady

 

As writer and director here, Mary McGuickian was clearly hoping that a dramatisation centred on the Irish artist Eileen Gray would attract a wider audience than a documentary although she also contributed to Gray Matters, a work in that form about that very artist. There are those who have little time for documentaries and here was a chance to focus through drama on Gray’s work as an architect with particular emphasis on the villa E-1027 created by her in the late 1920s. The design was a gift for her lover and fellow architect Jean Badovici in whose name it was placed, but Gray was bisexual and also had female lovers and an acquaintance with Romaine Brooks and Natalie Burney. Furthermore Badovici had an eye for other women and there was jealousy on more than one level from a yet more famous architect, Le Corobusier, who was a friend of Badovici’s. Indeed deep tensions ensued when Badovici later allowed Le Corbusier to paint murals at the villa which conflicted with Gray’s sense of artistic unity.

All of this may suggest fruitful ground but The Price of Desire is dramatically inert, dead in the water. It was undoubtedly a sincere attempt at serious cinema but the players – Orla Brady as Gray, Vincent Perez as Le Corbusier and Francesco Scianna as Badovici with Dominique Pinon lurking in the background as Fernand Léger – are at a disadvantage. The film moves at a very slow pace which might have been acceptable with a good script. But that is what is lacking. Told in flashback, with various voice overs and even with comments direct to camera inserted, there is no effective flow while the level of the dialogue emerges early on when, commenting on Gray, Le Corbusier informs us that he longed to act recklessly but realised that her heart was singing to a different symphony. Although acknowledged, the lesbian element is in fact somewhat played down and Brian Byrne’s music in contrast to his apt contribution to Gray Matters proves decidedly soporific. One finds that when the Second World War intrudes even the German soldiers advance in slow motion. It is, perhaps, in keeping that when Bruce Chatwin is seen visiting Gray in the 1970s the dialogue indicates that she is the one who thinks that he should go to Patagonia! The cast do try and the aim is sincere, but the documentary stands head and shoulders above this.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Orla Brady, Vincent Perez, Francesco Scianna, Dominique Pinon, Alanis Morissette, Tamara Vuckovic, Elsa Zylberstein, Anne Lambton, Natasha Girardi, Adriana Randall.

                                                                                                                

Dir Mary McGuckian, Pro Mary McGuckian, Jean-Jacques Neira, Hubert Toint and others, Screenplay Mary McGuckian, Ph Stefan von Bjorn, Pro Des Emma Pucci, Ed John O’Connor, Robert O’Connor and Kant Pan, Music Brian Byrne, Costumes Peter O’Brien.

 

EG Film Productions/Fábrica de Cine/Windmill Lane Pictures etc.-Munro Film Services.
109 mins. France. 2014. Rel: 27 May 2016. Cert. 12A.