This is an absolutely crazy story about a potentially massive art fraud involving one of Canada’s most famous painters. The story gets far wilder, though, so I will do my best to avoid spoilers.
Though I couldn’t have told you Norval Morrisseau’s name, I have definitely seen his work, and similar work, in the AGO, and probably other places. (And work from other members of the PNIAI.) His style is instantly recognizable and clearly hugely influential. In addition to work in public galleries, private galleries sell his work for considerable amounts, including galleries he didn’t have deals with.
One such person to buy one of his paintings is Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies. He was encouraged to show off his art collection at the AGO for an exhibition of private art collections. And there he was informed that his Morrisseau was not actually a Morrisseau. And that’s where this story begins.
If you read much about this online, you may learn more than you might learn from the film, as there have been developments since the film came out. If you’re interested in the movie, I’d strongly recommend not Googling this, watching the film, and then catching up. Because two aspects of this film are really, really compelling that could get spoiled: The film doesn’t initially take a clear side between those who claim there is fraud and there isn’t fraud. And I appreciate that. The second thing is what happens when the film travels to Thunder Bay. I won’t go into detail, but let’s say the film…takes a turn.
The film itself is not great. The opening is so chaotic it’s hard to tell what is happening. And there are unnecessary camera tricks and plenty of unnecessary shots that feel like padding. (This story does not need padding.) The pacing is also not great, though its hard to know how to better handle the crazy turn the story takes. I do feel like the story could be told better.
However, it’s still a crazy story that deserves to be told. I cannot believe I missed hearing about this but I’m glad I didn’t know anything when I watched this movie.