Missing Victor Pellerin

2007, Movie, NR, 102 mins

Review

MISSING VICTOR PELLERIN | RECHERCHER VICTOR PELLERIN
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Particularly slippery mockumentary that uses real Montreal-based artists like Mathieu Beausejour and Sylvain Bouthillette, gallery owners and dealers (Olga Korper and Eric Devlin), and even an art crimes investigator from Quebec's Surete (Alain Lacoursiere), to tell the story of a fictitious painter named Victor Pellerin.

The film begins in 2004, as Eudore Belzile curates a show of photographs documenting the influence of his old friend, Victor Pellerin. Documentary filmmaker Sophie Deraspe is making a documentary about the heady days of the late 1980s, when Pellerin's Studio Jan Kilinski — a loose collective of artists, musicians, writers and hangers on like Andy Warhol's Factory — galvanized the previously sleepy and all-but-unknown Montreal art world. A vibrant young artist, both playful and deeply serious, Pellerin galvanized his circle of friends and collaborators while becoming an art-world celebrityt. Then, apparently overwhelmed by pressure from his powerful, ambitious dealer, Olga Korper, to create new works she had pre-sold to international collectors, Pellerin disappeared. Before vanishing, he assembled every known piece of his work under the pretext of creating a comprehensive catalogue, and burned it all to cinders. Interviews with his contemporaries, including his bohemian sister, Elisabeth, gradually reveal that Victor , whose real name was Luc Gauthier, was born in Canada in 1960 and raised partly in Brazil, where his father was a mining prospector. Luc remained in Brazil when his father returned to Canada, involving himself in a series of shady exploits before relocating to Montreal to pursue a life in art. But as Deraspe probes, a darker picture emerges. Belzile, the naysayers claim, is a no-talent who's gone through life on Pellerin's coattails. Korper, a savvy wheeler-dealer with a network of rich collectors, cynically inflated the value of Pellerin's work through clever PR and made herself rich in the process. Pellerin was selfish and manipulative, cared more about scene making than making art, nearly drove his girlfriend, dancer Anne Lebeau, to a nervous breakdown and got involved in forgery. His supporters explain the forgery business as post-modern pranking; investigator Lacoursiere begs to differ.

Deraspe's film begins as a mystery and becomes a razor-sharp dissection of the self-promotion, pretension and deeply cynical inner workings of the art world. But her greatest achievement is painting the business of art as venal, corrupt, mendacious and built on false surfaces without suggesting that art itself is a form of glorious deception. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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