TJFF ’24: The Auction

Directed by Pascal Bonitzer, Auction is a compelling drama that draws viewers into the high-stakes world of art auctions. The film centers on André Masson (Alex Lutz) a specialist auctioneer at the prestigious (and bougie) Scottie’s auction house, who receives news about a lost Egon Schiele masterpiece. This painting, believed to have been lost during World War II due to the Nazis, resurfaces in the home of an impoverished factory worker in Mulhouse.

Alex Lutz delivers a powerful performance as André, perfectly capturing the character’s blend of passion for art and professional ambition. Léa Drucker portraying his ex-wife and colleague Bertina, adds depth to the storyline, portraying a character torn between her past and present. Louise Chevillotte, as the new up-and-coming intern Aurore, brings a fresh and dynamic to the film as well as youthful energy in providing both humour and depth.

The film mainly explores themes of capitalism in the art world, historical justice, ethical dilemmas, and personal integrity. The discovery of the Schiele painting triggers a series of events that test André’s moral values and his dedication to his career. His character’s journey is not just about validating the painting’s authenticity but also about validating his own values as well. André’s decisions reflect the broader conflicts within the art world between commercial interests and ethical dilemmas. The betrayal within the art world here appears deeply influenced by the pursuit of profit, leading to significant conflicts between who can profit from the art and how to get ahead of one another in auctions to make the most amount of money, and for competitors to make the least by driving up and inflating prices for the art that they want. Due to this capitalistic view of art, the auction houses, galleries, and private collectors are driven by the potential to achieve record-breaking sales and enhance their reputations, frequently focusing on the monetary value of artworks rather than their cultural or historical significance to society. The film’s tension and drama only elevate things to the extreme by the interactions and relationships between André, Bertina, and Aurore, making for a captivating character-driven story.

The Auction is now playing at TJFF ’24. For more information, click here.

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