'Condo Painting' Presents an Intriguing Look at Artist

Friday March 17, 2000

     John McNaughton's documentary "Condo Painting" sounds like a put-on, and in a way it is, even though that title refers not to an apartment house getting a face lift but to a witty study of artist George Condo at work. A boyish-looking man in his 40s with a shock of thick, black hair, Condo is an important figure in the Manhattan art scene.
     Condo, who has a quiet though intense demeanor, explains that the fantasy creatures in his imagination, which he calls "antipodes," demand that he express them on canvas. It sounds like a fancy way of saying he's been inspired by cartoon and comic-book characters he fell in love with in childhood.
     While he doesn't delve into the subject of animation and animators, he goes on about the cherished TV series of his youth. At one point we see him affixing head shots of Lucille Ball, Irene Ryan as Granny in "The Beverly Hillbillies" and others onto the classic portraits of the Old Masters in a lavish coffee-table-type history of art.
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     Surely, he asks, is not "Granny" as important as the "Mona Lisa"? It's a surprising question, really, when you consider how long popular culture has been taken seriously, especially since Andy Warhol taught us it was OK to admit what we already secretly liked much of in the first place--movie star publicity shots and the familiar images of commercial art, specifically.
     The focal point of the documentary, which was shot over several years beginning in 1996, is Condo's concentrated painting--and painting over and over again--an image of a Mickey Mouse-like creature on a gigantic canvas. In the course of its evolution, Condo visits William S. Burroughs, and they chat about Abstract Expressionism and collaborate on an action painting (made with a plumber's plunger and human excrement). Allen Ginsberg visits Condo, who paints a white skeleton on his black sweater and pants.
     Condo visits his parents in Massachusetts, not far from the hometown of his other Beat hero, Jack Kerouac, who is heard reciting his "Sea Is My Brother." There is no question that Condo is an intellectual deeply influenced in his thinking by the Beat writers, and the deaths of Burroughs and Ginsberg, whom he calls his best friends.
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     Indeed, Condo paints over his fanciful Mickey-like image with its pink sky and turns to an increasingly somber, simpler style until he arrives at a wistful, dark red mouse peering out from a gray background.
     Shot in High-8 video later transferred to 35-millimeter film, "Condo Painting" has an edgy feel and a knockout soundtrack featuring music and original songs by Danny Elfman, Tom Waits, Philip Glass, Beck and many others. "Condo Painting" exudes East Coast hipness and chic, and McNaughton's approach to Condo is sharp enough to keep us intrigued if not exactly rewarded.
     Eventually, Condo signs his painting and it's time for him to step back and let us appraise it. One film critic described it as looking like a Disney cartoon cel, and that's on the money. In this instant you realize, if you had not already done so, that the finished picture makes much of Condo's remarks seem silly and pretentious. Condo has an imagination that can amuse and delight, and maybe he really ought to let his work speak for itself.


'Condo Painting' Presents an Intriguing Look at Artist , 2000. Unrated. 'Condo Painting' Dolores Heredia as Esperanza. Fernando Torre Lapham as Padre Salvador. Demian Bichir as Cacomixtle. Alberto Estrella as Angel. Eric Schaeffer as Wirey Spindell. Eric Mabius as Wirey at 17. Callie Thorne as Tabatha. Samantha Buck as Samantha. Sophia-Adella Hernandez as Belle Alvarado. Eduardo Yan~ez as Mario Rodriguez. Tony Plana as Chuck Alvarado. William McNamara as Michael DeMarco. Maria Conchita Alonso as Carmen Alvarado. Paul Winfield as Ron Regent. Liam Neeson as Charlie. Oliver Platt as Fulvio Nesstra. Jose Zuniga as Fidel Vaillar. Michael Delorenzo as Estuvio. Andy Lauer as Jason Cane. Richard Schiff as Elliott. Paul Ben-Victor as Howard. Gregg Daniel as Jonathan. Ben Weber as Mark. Sandra Bullock as Judy Tipp. Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. Courteney Cox Arquette as Gale Weathers. David Arquette as Dewey Riley. Parker Posey as Jennifer Jolie. Bernadette Lafont as Jane. Lucile Saint-Simon as Rita. Clothilde Joano as Jacqueline. Stephane Audran as Ginette. Mark Webber as Hal Brandston. Zena Grey as Natalie Brandston. Chevy Chase as Tom Brandston. Schuyler Fisk as Lane Leonard. Emmanuelle Chriqui as Claire Bonner. Jean Smart as Laura Brandston. Chris Elliott as Snowplowman. Leonardo DiCaprio as Richard. Tilda Swinton as Sal. Virginie Ledoyen as Francoise. Guillaume Canet as Etienne. Robert Carlyle as Daffy. Vin Diesel as Riddick. Radha Mitchell as Fry. Cole Hauser as Johns. Keith David as Imam. Giovanni Ribisi as Seth. Vin Diesel as Chris. Nia Long as Abby. Nicky Katt as Greg. Scott Caan as Richie. Ron Rifkin as Seth's Father. Ben Affleck as Jim Young. Wei Minzhi as Wei Minzhi. Zhang Huike as Zhang Huike. Tian Zhenda as Mayor Tian. Gao Enman as Teacher Gao. Meg Ryan as Eve. Diane Keaton as Georgia. Lisa Kudrow as Maddy. Walther Matthau as Lou. Bruce Willis as Jimmy Tudeski. Matthew Perry as Oz Oseransky. Rosanna Arquette as Sophie. Michael Clarke Duncan as Frankie Figgs. Natasha Henstridge as Cynthia. Amanda Peet as Jill. Michael Douglas as Grady Tripp. Tobey Maguire as James Leer. Frances McDormand as Sara Gaskell. Katie Holmes as Hannah Green. Rip Torn as Q. Robert Downey Jr. as Terry Crabtree. Aaron Harnick as David Gold. Edie Falco as Judy Berlin. Madeline Kahn as Alice Gold. Bob Dishy as Arthur Gold. Barbara Barrie as Sue Berlin. Bette Henritze as Dolores Engler. Ayesha Dharkar as Malli. Vishnu Vardhan as Thyagu. Bhanu Prakash as Perumal. K. Krishna as Lover. Sonu Sisupal as Leader. Vishwas as Lotus. Michael Rooker as Fritz Burns. Selma Blair as Jane. Valerie Perrine as Marguerita Hansen. Harold Gould as Solly K. William Sasso as Fat Dog. A Cinema Village Features release. Running time as 1 hour, 22 minutes.. Ian Hart as Kieran. Pat Short as Ollie. Cathleen Bradley as Siobhan. Niamh Cusack as Kate. Sean McGinley as Ian. Ben Affleck as Rudy. Gary Sinise as Gabriel. Charlize Theron as Ashley. Dennis Farina as Jack Bangs. James Frain as Nick. Clarence Williams III as Merlin. Aaron Harnick as David Gold. Edie Falco as Judy Berlin. Madeline Kahn as Alice Gold. Bob Dishy as Arthur Gold. Barbara Barrie as Sue Berlin. Bette Henritze as Dolores Engler. Ayesha Dharkar as Malli. Vishnu Vardhan as Thyagu. Bhanu Prakash as Perumal. K. Krishna as Lover. Sonu Sisupal as Leader. Vishwas as Lotus. Michael Rooker as Fritz Burns. Selma Blair as Jane. Valerie Perrine as Marguerita Hansen. Harold Gould as Solly K. William Sasso as Fat Dog. A Cinema Village Features release. Running time as 1 hour, 22 minutes.. Ian Hart as Kieran. Pat Short as Ollie. Cathleen Bradley as Siobhan. Niamh Cusack as Kate. Sean McGinley as Ian. Ben Affleck as Rudy. Gary Sinise as Gabriel. Charlize Theron as Ashley. Dennis Farina as Jack Bangs. James Frain as Nick. Clarence Williams III as Merlin. Carlotte Coleman as Portia Thornton. Edin Dzandzanovic as Pero Guzina. Danny Nussbaum as Griffin Midge. Gilbert Martin as Jerry Higgins. Nicholas Farrell as Dr. Mouldy. Brian Hooks as Rob. N'Bushe Wright as Juanita. Faizon Love as Tone. E40 as Mike. Starletta DuPois as Moms. George Wallace as Pops. David Alan Grier as Jenkins. Anders W. Berthelsen as Kresten. Iben Hjejle as Liva. Jesper Asholt as Rud. Emil Tarding as Bjarke. Madonna as Abbie. Rupert Everett as Robert. Benjamin Bratt as Ben. Michael Vartan as Kevin. Josef Sommer as Richard Whittaker. Lynn Redgrave as Helen Whittaker. Garry Shandling as Harold Anderson. Annette Bening as Susan. John Goodman as Roland Jones. Greg Kinnear as Perry Gordon. Ben Kingsley as Graydon. Danny DeVito as Wyatt Rash. Bette Midler as Mona Dearly. William Fichtner as Phil. Casey Affleck as Bobby. Neve Campbell as Ellen. Jamie Lee Curtis as Rona. Johnny Depp as Dean Corso. Frank Langella as Boris Balkan. Lena Olin as Liana Telfer. Emmanuelle Seigner as The Girl. Barbara Jefford as Baroness Kessler. Jack Taylor as Victor Fargas. Kevin Pollak as President Walter Emerson. Timothy Hutton as Marshall Thompson. Sheryl Lee Ralph as Gayle Redford. Sean Astin as Ralph. Tim Robbins as Woody Blake. Gary Sinise as Jim McConnell. Don Cheadl as : Luke Graham. Connie Nielsen as Terri Fisher. Yael Abecassis as Rivka. Yoram Hattab as Meir. Meital Barda as Malka. Sami Hori as Yaakov. Madhur Jaffrey as Cotton Mary. Greta Scacchi as Lily MacIntosh. James Wilby as John MacIntosh. Sakina Jaffrey as Rosie. Devon Sawa as Alex Browning. Ali Larter as Clear Rivers. Kerr Smith as Carter Horton. Kristen Cloke as Valerie Lewton.

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