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When cartoonist Jules Feiffer endorses illustrator Tomi Ungerer as “a wonderfully brilliant, innovative madman,” he’s not exaggerating. He’s a thrillingly skilled and imaginative draftsman, with 140 books to his credit, ranging from popular children’s titles to social criticism to erotica. Following a childhood under the Nazis, he emigrated to America where his distinctive vision won him a promising career as a children’s author. Then he became involved in political protest during the ’50s and the sexual freedom movement of the ’60s. His livelihood was derailed as bluenoses banned all his works from U.S. libraries because they disapproved of some.
Now in his 80s, Ungerer is a lively, articulate interview subject, acerbically funny about his run-ins with censors and anyone else who would hope to quash his colorful contradictions. Director Brad Bernstein (of VH-1’s Emmy-winning documentary series “Behind the Music”) brings the story to life with inspired use of Ungerer’s artwork that virtually makes it dance. The film is a salute to, and a shining example of, untrammeled creative freedom.
The Look of Love ⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: Extensive nudity and sexuality; drug use.
Theater: St. Anthony Main
Steve Coogan, the rapier-sharp English comedian, specializes in playing hollow men who have sold their souls. Here he’s cast as the late Paul Raymond, an enterprising operator of nude revues, pornography publisher and real-estate magnate who became England’s wealthiest man.
Director Michael Winterbottom follows Raymond from his modest beginnings in the ’50s to vast riches 40 years later, capturing the feel, music and fashion of each era impeccably.
A libertine in his private life, Raymond valued public respectability above all, a clamped-down, coolly reserved satyr. It’s a film made with undeniable craftsmanship, but Raymond is poor company. Coogan is wasted playing a man too dull in spirit to be tragic and too complacent in his sins to be an entertaining, outrageous hypocrite. Even his orgies are tedious (that’s Winterbottom’s point, but still). Groovy period soundtrack aside, “The Look of Love” has almost nothing to say of any interest, importance or humor.