Masterpieces to Go

Thanks to the talent of faux masters, movies are suddenly filled with fine art masterpieces.


In Girl, Interrupted, we know Winona Ryder is coming apart at the mental seams when we see her lost in front of Vermeer's masterpiece Girl Interrupted at Her Music. In Random Hearts, the elegant landscapes hanging in the home of the congresswoman played by Kristin Scott Thomas help define the character as mature, tasteful and solid. Mickey Blue Eyes milks laughs out of a scene in which Hugh Grant shares a personal moment with a Renaissance painting of a woman with a huge posterior. The whole plot of The Thomas Crown Affair revolves around masterworks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. None of the paintings we see in these scenes are the real thing, but they're unusual works of art all on their own. They, as well as the paint-ings featured in You've Got Mail, Wild Wild West, Cruel Intentions and many other films, are handmade copies done by Paris- and New York-based Troubetzkoy Paintings Ltd., whose U.S. branch is headed by French-American artist Christopher Warner Moore. Since the early '90s, Moore and his staff of 12 artists have produced fine art reproductions for filmmakers from Mike Nichols to Woody Allen. Although paintings have played major roles in movies over the decades, including such vintage classics as Laura, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Vertigo, until relatively recently, the copies were executed--for better or worse--by the art departments of the studios. Today's art directors require paintings that can withstand the scrutiny of a more skeptical and demanding audience and a less forgiving cam-era. "The Age of Innocence set a new standard for absolute realism and perfectionism," asserts Moore, who, working closely with production designer Dante Ferretti, reproduced almost 200 paintings by artists from Veronese to Vuillard. Innocence won Moore so much attention that it led to such major commissions as The American President, Ransom and Meet Joe Black. His company has by now developed a "collection" of about 350 paintings that filmmakers can rent, though most directors still prefer to commission just the right paintings at prices from $500 to $6,000. Moore himself prefers to make his copies as unoriginal as possible. "I always recommend that filmmakers let me seek the rights to use a real Picasso rather than something 'in the style of,'" he says. "Modern audiences are accustomed to seeing beautiful objects in sharp focus, so paintings have to look right." And where do the paintings wind up once the shooting stops? "I've been required by the estates of Kandinsky and Braque, for instance, to destroy the paintings. But it makes more sense not to destroy them, because another art director can rent the same piece and the artist's estate gets another $500 or so. They're usually comfort-able with that."