The Last Vermeer (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Originally scheduled for release on May 22, but postponed until November 20th due to the China Virus, if you want to see a sparkling performance, the one given here by Guy Pearce as Dutch art connoisseur Han van Meergren is for you. Rarely do you find a performance like this, one that lights up the screen every second he’s on.
With a script by James McGee and Mark Fergus & Hawk Osby, based on the book “The Man who Made Vermeers” by Jonathan Lopez, and directed in his debut by Dan Friedken, Van Meergren is arrested shortly after the end of WWII and accused of being a traitor by selling priceless recently “discovered” Vermeer paintings to the Nazis, especially Herman Goering.
Capt. Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) is the British officer charged with finding out what actually happened, but he’s fought tooth and nail by the Dutch who want to arrest Van Meergren and shoot him as quickly as possible. Piller is a fictional character and it’s an odd choice for a name because Josef Priller was a German military aviator and wing commander in the Luftwaffe during World War II. As a fighter ace, he was credited with 101 enemy aircraft shot down in 307 combat missions. All of his victories were claimed over the Western Front, including 11 four-engine bombers and at least 68 Supermarine Spitfire fighters. Was there some esoteric reason that Friedken & Co. chose that as a name for their protagonist? Regardless, Bang gives a good performance as the originally doubting investigator who becomes Van Meergren’s defender during the trial.
Unusual for a film like this, the cinematography (Remi Adefarasin) is entrancing. There is a scene at the beginning of two people sitting at a table with a garden that is so beautifully framed and set that it looks like an oil painting itself. The Dutch locations (Production Designer Arthur Max) are equally captivating. Both are Oscar®-worthy and add immensely to the enjoyment of the film.
The ending is bogus, but I don’t want to go into that because it would be a spoiler, and it’s too good a film that should be watched in ignorance of the facts.
Tony Medley is an attorney, columnist, and MPAA-accredited film critic whose reviews and articles may be read in several newspapers and at rottentomatoes.com, CWEB.com, Movie Review Query Engine (mrqe.com), and at www.tonymedley.com. His most recent book is “Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss,” the most complete “all in one” book for beginners and also for advanced players. He is also the author of three books, UCLA Basketball:The Real Story, Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, the first book ever written on the interview for the interviewee and still in print after more than thirty years, having sold over a half million copies, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bridge, which has sold over 100,000 copies. He is an American Contract Bridge League Silver Life Master and an ACBL accredited director.