The Best Offer
starring Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, Donald Sutherland, Philip Jackson and Dermot Crowley
written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
The Best Offer is a brilliant story of art theft, swindle and forgery. Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) is a wealthy, respected, famous auctioneer in London. His knowledge of antiquities and art is encyclopedic. He’s a world authority. He is equally famous for his eccentricities: unmarried, living alone, isolated, working through associates and staff, always donning gloves to further separate himself from the world.
It turns out that for a long time Mr. Oldman has secretly been running a fix in his auctions with a planted bidder (Donald Sutherland) who buys many paintings for Oldman himself, for his secret collection of master artworks. Does he buy them for less than their real value? Is there a conflict of interest? I’m not sure, but the implication is that they are in cahoots together to take advantage of the auction system for Mr. Oldman’s personal advantage - so that he can grow his private collection of female portraits. Mr. Oldman appears to have no woman or romance in his life, but in fact he has hundreds of intimate woman that he gazes on lovingly in his own private art vault. He’s very romantic, actually. Sure, it’s unrequited love, it’s imaginary, it’s kind of perverse, but that’s the nature of the human heart. There are all kinds.
Human emotions are like works of art. They can be forged. They seem just like the original, but they’re a forgery.
Everything can be faked.
But Mr. Oldman gets conned very skillfully. The story is a little complicated but I’ll try to make it short. He takes on a job auctioning the artistic contents of an old Italian Renaissance villa in the middle of the city of London. The client is the reclusive daughter of the deceased owners. She is a very difficult client to work with and Mr. Oldman accommodates her by abandoning his routine business practices. That is a mistake. The woman is a fraud and part of a scheme to plant someone in the Oldman house in order to steal his priceless art collection, which is what happens. Oldman is slowly seduced by her apparent overwhelming dependence on him. When he finally learns that her love was a fake, a forgery and his art treasure has been stolen he still doesn’t believe it. And that’s where the film ends. Like a lot of guys he was destroyed by love and abandoned as a hopeless romantic sad sack. The bad buys won, apparently.