Portrait of Wally (2012)
Portrait of Wally, Egon Schiele's tender picture of his mistress, Walburga ("Wally") Neuzil, is the pride of the Leopold Museum in Vienna. But for 13 years the painting was locked up in New York, caught in a legal battle between the Austrian museum and the Jewish family from whom the Nazis seized the painting in 1939. Portrait of Wally traces the history of this iconic image - from Schiele's gesture of affection toward his young lover, to the theft of the painting from Lea Bondi, a Jewish art dealer fleeing Vienna for her life, to the post-war confusion and subterfuge that evoke The Third Man, to the surprise resurfacing of "Wally" on loan to the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan in 1997. -- (C) Official Site … More
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Critic Reviews for Portrait of Wally
An account of greed, betrayal, culpability and self-serving moral relativism.
Although the film at times moves through the evidence at an impossibly fast clip, the response of MoMa will doubtlessly resonate.
It's a fascinating story, even as Shea's film sometimes tells it in a slightly convoluted way.
By showing how difficult and problematic righting a wrong can turn out to be, "Portrait of Wally" does itself proud.
The material's not so rich and complex that the documentary doesn't feel padded at 90 minutes.
A painting's provenance matters, and so does this portrait of Portrait of Wally.
The story is compelling, and the fallout of the 13-year legal battle over Portrait of Wally not only established important legal precedence regarding art looted from Holocaust victims, but also caused some soul-searching in the museum world.
The journey of the painting, and the Bondi family's efforts to reclaim it, are the meaty subject of Andrew Shea's engrossing documentary.
The film's troubling take on the moral flexibilities of the art world may also have viewers wondering about the provenance of what they see on museum walls.
For such a winding, research-heavy piece, Portrait of Wally moves at a brisk clip, with Gary Lionelli's agitated score lending the film the breathless quality of a police procedural.
Portrait of Wally reminds us that nearly 70 years after the war, some lessons of the Holocaust have yet to sink in.
...the journey of just one of many, many thousands of Nazi plundered art works and its rightful return to its owner.
...would make a great double bill with "The Art of the Steal," another documentary which exposes the ruthless greed and obsessions which power the world of public art exhibition.
A complex legal controversy is made enthralling and not infrequently shocking.
Intricate documentary about stolen art is presented as if it were a thriller.
In chronicling the law case, the film also provides a fascinating profile of the lives of Schiele, Wally and Lea Bondi, and of Vienna's cultural ambiance pre-World War II.
Whatever might happen in future, however, the film underlines that the Wally case made this much very clear: rich people look out for themselves and bully others.
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