Is Tim Burton an impostor or an artist?

Is Tim Burton an impostor or an artist?
Walt disney pictures

His film Big Eyes returns this Sunday on television.

Update October 3: On the occasion of the broadcast this Sunday of Big eyes on Arte (followed by a documentary on Christoph Waltz, who plays a key role there), we republish this reflection on its director, Tim Burton.

Open your eyes wide for Tim Burton, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz [critique]

Article from March 18, 2015: What if the troubles of Tim burton had started the day he entered the museum? In an interview this month with Positive, the chief op ‘of Big eyes, Bruno Delbonnel, makes the link between one of the storylines of the film (the successful painter Margaret Keane is despised by a nasty art critic played by Terence stamp) and the Burton exhibition organized by MOMA in 2009. This had earned the filmmaker and the institution a volley of green wood from the New York Times, via a forum explaining that Burton, it was simply not art (for information, the exhibition had ended up becoming the third biggest success of the museum, just behind Picasso and Matisse). Art against trade, kitsch against high culture, lowbrow versus high brow… Six years after the fact, Burton found with Big eyes the perfect material to reflect on this little controversy. Respond to NY Times with, if not a manifesto, at least a self-portrait. Maybe even a self-criticism.

Tim Burton, side B
Museumified, Burton? We hadn’t waited for MOMA to find the man with a nasty breakdown of inspiration, creativity at half mast and morale in (striped) socks. An artistic crisis symbolized by the successive failures of Dark shadows and Frankenweenie, and the announcement, in the wake, of the start of Beetlejuice 2. The firecracker-haired real was starting to look like a tired rockstar, doomed to replay his old hits ad lib. He had clearly entered the B-side of his career. Today, in a striking mirror effect, they are the two authors of Ed wood, Scott Alexander and Larry karaszewski, which offer him the material for a new profession of faith. In 1994, Tim painted in his masterpiece (his last real great film?) The portrait of the “worst filmmaker of all time”, the better to assert his position as a wacky outsider and affirm that, in his personal cosmogony , nullards like Ed Wood were as important (because as sincere) as Orson Welles. Twenty years later, the “Ed Wood” culture has taken everything in its path, Burton’s favorite filmmakers (Mario bava, Terence fisher…) have their place in the history books next to Citizen Kane, his kind dark imagination has conquered the planet, and even the ex-Batman loser Michael keaton stars in films at the Oscars. Tim won. But the juice is gone.

Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski: “Tim Burton has become a brand”

Double-sided biopic

The credits of Big eyes just speak of that, of this moment when madness, creative fever, inspiration, become a recipe, a gimmick, something that can be reproduced indefinitely. Foreground: a painting of a child with big sad eyes, characteristic of Margaret Keane’s style. Except that in reality, it is not a painted canvas that we contemplate, but a poster, on which is replaced another poster, then another, and yet another … Or, very literally, “The work of art at the time of its technical reproducibility” (hello Walter Benjamin). An intro in the form of a dazzling summary of the career of Burton, a dark-minded Burbank kid and rebellious ex-wonderboy from the Disney house, now champion of multiplexes, expert in recycling ideas, former inventor of brilliant imaginary shapes numb.

It remains to be seen, once the thematic issues of the film are exposed with such clarity, to which character the filmmaker’s sympathy really goes. Big eyes is a double-sided biopic, a two-in-one portrait. On our right, Margaret Keane, therefore, pop painter (ulaire) who made a disaster in the America of Mad Men, that of triumphant consumerism and housewives, by painting pretty portraits of sad children. Not necessarily very chic from a cultural point of view, not necessarily “of art” in the sense that the New York Times hear it, but a powerful imagination, capable of touching the heart of the housewife and “Common man”. To our left, Walter Keane, her bastard husband, who stole from Madame the copyright of her paintings, but at the same time proved to be sufficiently skillful and huckster to sell them to his contemporaries, to use them on mugs and postcards, to pocket the nest egg with a marketing flair and a pop-art prescience that will go so far as to force the admiration of Warhol. If we still talk about Margaret today, it is thanks to Walter.

Tim the magician or Burton the shopkeeper?

Which of the two Burtons does he project himself into the most? Who is the real genius of the Keane couple? The one who creates or the one who sells? Surface, Big eyes looks at himself as a gentle feminist plea, coupled with the proper rehabilitation of a forgotten artist – during the US promo, Burton was careful to point out that he had always loved Margaret Keane’s paintings, but that, he just watch his film full of characters at ” Big eyes “ (Vincent, Mr Jack, Catwoman and the others) to be convinced of it.

Yet, throughout the film, her gaze keeps drifting towards the husband, played by an ultra-pooch, half-Beetlejuice, half-Willy Wonka Christoph Waltz, who obviously pumped all of his grotesque postures and raised eyebrows all over the place. ultimate Burtonian alter-ego Johnny Depp. Burton’s way of saying he is too (especially?) in Walter Keane’s camp. Screenwriters Scott A. and Larry K. being notorious clever kids and fans of the situationist comic Andy kaufman (the awesome Man on the moon, it is them too), they of course took care to cover the tracks and to leave the question of the definition of artistic “genius” in suspense. As for Burton himself, he had been asked at the time of Frankenweenie What it was like to return to the Disney house, thirty years after being burdened by it, to transform a little unloved short film into a family mega-blockbuster. What we felt when we went from the margin to the center. When we saw his small personal and intimate creations begin to dominate the completely globalized world. When we lived split in two, and the merchant risked triumphing over the artist at any moment. “I concentrate on my films, I don’t think like that”, had swept aside the idol of the Goths with the back of his hand. Who is the strongest ? Tim the magician or Burton the shopkeeper? And above all, above all… who wins in the end? The answer is in Big eyes.
Frédéric Foubert

Big Eyes: Tim Burton’s Big Eyes Gallery

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