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booksmusicfilmsTV.com/Peace & Freedom Press Classic Film Reviews
Tony Hancock is brilliant as an artist who gets lucky in the snooty world of early '60s art.
Acclaimed by many as Britain's greatest comic genius, this film, still strangely underrated, is a great vehicle for Hancock's droll quips.
He plays a character, Anthony Hancock (!), who is frustrated by his boring life, and who wants to be a successful painter and sculptor.
He goes to Paris and meets up with fellow artists, including one character played by a very young Oliver Reed. Hancock's best friend is Paul Ashby (Paul Massie), who introduces his English friend to the Bohemians and beatniks of Paris. Despite saying to a white-faced, blue-lipped Nanette Newman, "You do eat food, don't you?", and, on seeing an action painting, sneering "Who's gone raving mad here", the arty types think he's a genius. But, he's not too proud to adapt, and creates an action painting himself, partly with a bicycle, with his newly acquired, beautiful brown cow, Ermintrude, a bemused onlooker. After finishing the painting, he's not humble: "That's worth two thousand quid of anybody's money, that is."
When Hancock's friend, and really talented artist Paul leaves Paris - as yet another disillusioned artist - he leaves Hancock his work, and tells him he can do what he wants with the pictures. Hancock looks at Paul's work, and says, with hilarious ignorance, "It's just not there, is it?"
Snobby smug art dealer Sir Charles Broward (George Sanders) gets to hear of the new 'genius (Hancock)', pays him a visit, and makes a beeline for Paul's art, despite Hancock's attempts at telling Broward they're not his (Hancock's), and tries to interest Broward with his own stuff, which includes the classic foot painting! Broward thinks Hancock's just trying to help a friend, and organises an exhibition of Paul's art under Hancock's name, before our Tone can say 'no'.
Hancock soon gets into the the swim as the celebrity artist, swanning into 'his' exhibition dressed up to the nines. But things go wrong when he does a rather unflattering sculpture of a rich shipping magnate's wife - who tries to seduce the innocent Hancock.
Having enough of the limelight, and the pitfalls of fame, and feeling he should help his friend, Hancock finally tells Broward, at an exhibition of his 'new' work, supplied unknowingly by Paul, that Paul did all the good stuff on display, and that he, Hancock, did all the rubbish. Realising this, Broward sweeps past Hancock, and sucks up to Paul - in a hilariously outrageous, but typical example of the shallow falseness of showbiz, and the artistic world.
Hancock returns to his former landlady, Mrs. Crevatte (mischievously played by Irene Handl), and uses her as his model, as he attempts to improve on his dreadful sculpting skills. He sculpts another 'Aphrodite at the Waterhole' in an attempt to prove the critics wrong. Let's hope so...
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.
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Directed by Robert Day
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