“(Untitled),” the latest effort by “Bartleby” director Jonathon Parker, stars Adam Goldberg as an avant-garde composer whose atonal, anti-melodic music satirizes the bohemian Chelsea art scene.
The plot follows Adrian (Goldberg) as he attempts to create a name for himself in the music world. However, he is up against strong resistance, most notably from himself, as his music is far from marketable. In fact, many of his pieces consist of bucket-kicking, shrieking and plastic bag-crumpling with zero melodic cogency. His ideology is summed by his assertion that “harmony was invented to sell pianos.” Adrian’s foil is his painter brother Josh, whose paintings, though uninteresting, are quite commercially viable, selling successfully as background art in hotels and hospitals.
Though this opposition between successful brother and unsuccessful brother — a sort of artistic Cain and Abel — is present, the majority of the film’s conflict comes in their common pursuit of Madeleine (Marley Shelton), a gallery owner who doubles as pusher for Josh’s mundane paintings. Though Josh initially pursues her, Madeleine is attracted to Adrian, and the two are definitely cut from the same cloth: She stocks her gallery with some rather strange pieces, including a life-size, taxidermied deer getting a haircut in a barber’s chair.
In one scene, Adrian uses what has to be one of the best pickup lines of all time when he tells Madeleine her skirt makes a funny sound when she walks, and he would love to borrow it for one of his compositions. Accordingly, Madeleine removes her skirt and the two proceed to consummate their artistic relationship. Predictably, a love triangle ensues between Adrian, Josh and Madeleine, though Josh is the only participant that seems remotely emotionally invested, as the other two have their heads way too far up their artistic asses to enjoy anything beyond a romp in the sack.
The film shines in its satirical yet sympathetic view of the modern art scene. With Adrian and Madeleine, for example, their left-field aesthetics are way out there, as are the ways in which their pretentious artistic ramblings prevent them from truly emotionally connecting, their pursuit for respect, admiration and illumination is easier to comprehend.
Though the narrative often seems a little too conventional when juxtaposed with the avant-garde subject matter, “(Untitled)” works on multiple levels. While the film is clearly comical in its over-the-top depiction of some very vain artists, the film also humanizes these individuals and indicates that though their art may be abstract, their desire for respect is very relatable.