The Horse's Mouth Reviews
Guinness plays Gulley Jimson, a reclusive, incorrigible, alcohol-scented hobo painter whose beatific artistic visions far surpass the hypocritical and drearily boring milieu of postwar London. Despite his glaring flaws and irresponsibility, and occasional mean-spirited rantings, Jimson is comical and likable, a man who cannot compromise with very much of society, but whose heart undeniably beats for the beautiful.
There is an underpinning of sadness to Jimson's raffish pursuit of the formal realization of his artistic visions. Though he runs roughshod over mostly everyone and everybody, in quite hilarious ways, trying to manifest the sublime at the expense of the homes and pocketbooks of well-to-do patrons, it is as if he is chasing a divine butterfly, one that is destined to elude him as it does the rest of unsuspecting, blind society.
The irascible, Diogenes-like Jimson gets the last word, or at least disappears on his own terms, but the movie casts a pessimistic eye upon the theme of the viability of ideals within the absurd normality and banality of compromise, practicality, and conformism.