The Horse's Mouth (1958)
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- 97 min.
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In The Horse's Mouth, Alec Guinness is a gruff artist just released from prison for some swindler's scheme or other. Half grifter, half truly gifted painter, what appear to be con jobs early on turn out to be his deep desire to translate his artistic vision into large, colorful paintings. And that's really the crux of the piece. Yes, it's full of zany characters, some of them quite mad in any context, leading to amusing, absurd bits. But it's about the art for art's sake, and how ethics can take a back seat to aesthetics when one is pursuing a truly great endeavor. We don't have to agree with the character's amorality, but we can't help but be excited by his passion and recognize the toll he has to pay for it. Whether he succeeds or fails, the artistic process is given voice in blazing speeches and heroic action (I almost called it mock-heroic, but no, I think this actually something of an epic, if one that takes place at the street level). Full of charm and quirkiness and freshness, The Horse's Mouth also felt true to the artistic process, which is what I demand from art-related films.
Alec Guinness is really funny as a very eccentric artist.
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In 2 official lists
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This movie ranks #157 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #560 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?