Leonardo Live is being screened as a special event by a number of Australian cinemas on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 February. It focuses on the extremely popular exhibition ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan’ which was held the at the National Gallery in London until very recently. Leonardo Live has been promoted as an opportunity for audiences unable to attend the exhibition to see these works, along with interviews and discussions by art historians and experts.
While an admirable idea, in practice, the end result was ultimately less than satisfying. Recorded live for the British television channel Sky Arts on the eve of the exhibition launch, watching something intended to be broadcast live on television in a cinema three months after the event in question had taken place was a bizarre experience. Constant references by the hosts (Mariella Frostup and Tim Marlow) and interview subjects to the imminent launch of the exhibition, while correct at the time of filming, made Leonardo Live seem more like an extended television promo rather than a feature worth viewing in its own right.
The film splits its time between the hosts giving a tour of the exhibition, interviews with experts and other British cultural identities, plus a number of pre-recorded segments dealing with various aspects of the exhibition. The sections of the film added for its theatrical release were easily the strongest, providing vital historical context for the works, as well as compelling information regarding the curatorship process and restorative work which took place for the exhibition.
Unfortunately, further exploration of these topics are interrupted by a series of increasingly awkward interactions between the hosts and their interview subjects. While some of these were with individuals associated with the exhibition, or who have some art history expertise, other guests at the exhibition preview are also approached to give their opinions on some of the works. The ensuing stilted and unintentionally hilarious exchanges provoked laughter on more than a few occasions at the screening I attended, as did the stiff banter that occurred between the hosts.
With the exhibition now finished, this may be the only way in which many individuals can experience it for the foreseeable future. However, it is an average substitute at best.
Leonardo Live will be playing selected cinemas on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 February. For more details, click here.