For an artist with such a unique vision that transcends his time, Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil is a really boring tribute. I expected the focus to be on the artist and his ideas about hell—unfortunately, director Pieter van Huystee gives only fleeting, superficial treatment to both. Instead, the focus here is on the process of culling an exhibit in Den Bosch, the city where the artist spent his entire life, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his death. Oddly, none of his 25 or so existing works are housed there. The film follows a group of art historians as they circle the globe examining pieces to confirm or negate their authenticity and meet with museum executives to broker deals for borrowing works. Along the way, an unknown panel, The Temptation of St. Anthony, is “discovered” in of all places Kansas City.
Museum politics and egos are caught in action, as is the thrill of discovering the unknown St. Anthony. A bit of time is devoted to an interesting discussion on works produced after Bosch’s death. Overall, though, Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil is a rather lifeless affair that shines bright when the camera is pointed at the artist’s work, but not really any other time. It fails to hit the notes or address any questions I wanted it to; its intriguing title is curiously misleading.
(Gene Siskel Film Center) C-