Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 22, 1998 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Artemisia

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
Wide Release Date
01/01/98
performer
Valentina Cervi
director
Agnes Merlet
genre
Drama

We gave it a C-

Pretty tableaux, sexy situations, attractive actors, easy-to-read art-history content — they make for pleasant eyewash in Artemisia, but there’s a bizarre slant to this swoopy biographical drama from French director Agnes Merlet. In telling the story of (now) renowned 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi (Valentina Cervi, suggesting an Italian Daphne Zuniga), the director has decided that, actual historical evidence to the contrary, the 17-year-old artist (famous for her masterpiece Judith Beheading Holofernes) was not so much raped by her libertine, much older, married teacher (Miki Manojlovic) as surprised by his passion, which she soon voluptuously returned. (The rape charge was brought by Artemisia’s father, himself a painter with grudges to bear against rivals, including his own more talented daughter.)

Thus this romanticized bit of high-toned soft-core art-history lesson — all lush landscapes and lusher bodies — isn’t to be trusted. Tragedy becomes Florentine ”Melrose Place.” Daphne Zuniga would feel right at home.C-

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