Review: ‘The Lost Leonardo’ explores the mysteries of art

"The Lost Leonardo" is a documentary about a painting that could be an undiscovered piece by Leonardo da Vinci. 

"The Lost Leonardo" is a documentary about a painting that could be an undiscovered piece by Leonardo da Vinci. 

Sony Classics/ Contributed photo

Movies love stories about art and artists.

The creative magic that complex souls deliver often inspires filmmakers to investigate their own reasons to capture what they envision.

When documentary movie makers explore the world of art, their non-fictional approaches may enhance the authenticity of the journey. Such films as “Peggy Guggenheim Art Addict” and “Painters Painting” use the credible foundation of fact-based film to launch thrilling explorations into why people create and savor art. The movies celebrate the passion that defines how both artist and collector deal with the experience.

“The Lost Leonardo,” a new documentary about what could be an undiscovered work by Leonardo da Vinci, immediately joins the best of non-fiction films that focus on how people savor, pursue and may manipulate the visual medium. With the pace of an adventure and the suspense of a thriller, the film invites us to take a roller-coaster ride through the mysterious worlds of art collectors, restorers and influencers, all trying to get their piece of what could be a significant artistic discovery.

While a love for art grounds the film, movie maker Andreas Koefoed shrewdly captures the ambition that reaches beyond what a canvas actually captures. We’re quickly drawn into a world of big-money art collecting where spirited egos compete to secure the most envied works without necessarily respecting the art they fancy. Regardless of what a piece may actually be, these aggressive collectors focus on the commercial value it may generate with little consideration for who they have to step over in the process. What someone may see in the art is of little interest. They care about what someone may pay.

When an obscure art collector stumbles upon what could be a lost painting of Jesus Christ by da Vinci, the commercial world perks up. Investors immediately imagine how much money the painting could secure if someone would confirm its authenticity. But that’s not easy to accomplish. As Koefoed painstakingly reveals, the efforts to confirm the validity of the prize are as compelling as the efforts to win. While the painting will only hold value if it can be validated as real, what that confirmation requires may be more subjective than we can imagine.

For those of us who love art – but may not understand the complex world of high-end collecting – “The Lost Leonardo” surrounds us with a fascinating world where few people set limits for their ambitions. With the precision of a documentarian and the visual imagination of a creative filmmaker, Koefoed makes a challenging amount of detail easy to absorb by creating an accessible thriller that immediately captures our attention. Because we never lose interest in what the filmmaker discovers, we learn as much as the best non-fiction film can provide while being entertained by a top-grade story of surprise. Thanks to “The Lost Leonardo” we may never look at the world of art the same way again.

More Information

Film Summary: The Lost Leonardo

Content: High. The ambitions of the high-end art world come to life in Andreas Koefoed's fascinating look at the fascination surrounding a possible work by Leonardo da Vinci.
Entertainment: High. Whether or not classic art interests you, the film is enough of a thriller to capture anyone's attention.
Message: High. Koefoed reminds us that, not only is art in the eye of the beholder, so is what people are willing to pay.
Relevance: High. Any chance to experience a documentarian doing strong work is always relevant.
Opportunity for Dialogue: High. After you share this film, you may have lots to discuss about the perceived and actual value of art.

“The Lost Leonardo” runs 1 hour, 36 minutes, is rated PG-13 for “nude art images” and is showing in theaters in and around New York City.