The man who sold Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring a Vermeer forgery! Or did he?
The complicated, cloaked and outlandish life of Dutch art trickster Han van Meegeren is a delicious tale on many levels. Riding the campy yet devilish performance by a wispy moustachioed Guy Pearce, the film version of the World War II caper is old school, intrigue laden moviemaking.
An underachieving artist who favoured the Renaissance Masters over the booming contemporary art world, van Meegeren hit pay dirt with his impeccable replicates of days gone by, parlaying his unique gift into a vast fortune, and accompanying ostentatious lifestyle.
"The Last Vermeer" focuses on the aftermath of the war, when van Meegeren is charged with abetting the enemy. As the death penalty looms, the only way out is to prove his forgeries are just that, and thus settling for a lesser crime. Cleverly, the absolute truth is veiled throughout, as Pearce prances around the authorities, sprinkling clues as he deems fit. He absolutely owns the screen, which jolts the movie, but sinks the supporting cast. Claes Bang as the determined soldier investigator in charge of the case, is an absolute walking, talking log. His marriage interactions so painfully drab, it is a wonder the editor saw fit for their inclusion. The others don't fare much better.
Perhaps the mundane, business like proceedings by everyone but Pearce, were true to the times, and a stab at authenticity, but they manage to create a bizarre dichotomy in the viewing experience.
Still, the story's a cracker, and Pearce brilliantly on top of his game. Worth it for history hounds.