The Price of Desire review: an Eileen Gray biopic with a little too much furniture

Too many soft-focus Cote d'Azure exteriors bring 'Absolutely Fabulous' to mind

No blame should be attached to Orla Brady, pictured alongside Vincent Perez, an excellent actress who plays Eileen Gray, the great modernist designer and architect

Film Title: The Price of Desire

Director: Mary McGuckian

Starring: Orla Brady, Vincent Perez, Francesco Scianna, Alanis Morissette, Dominique Pinon

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 108 min

Fri, May 27, 2016, 06:30


Until relatively recently, Eileen Gray, the great modernist designer and architect, could be reasonably described as one of the nation’s under-appreciated geniuses.

Over the past decade, however, the Wexford woman, who died in 1976, has been deservedly pushed to the front of the conversation. The latest entity to burnish her legend is a well-meaning, but dramatically inert biopic from the enterprising Mary McGuckian.

The film certainly has things to say to the uninitiated, but, sadly, it chooses to say them via hunks of indigestible dialogue that play to the rhythms of the online encyclopaedia. Did you know that Gray’s work “totally transcends the decorative arts”? Well, if not, somebody will be sure to tell you. I wonder if “nature has its own language”. How would you describe Mies van der Rohe’s approach? “Less is more. God is in the details”? That sounds about right.


The film’s core argument concerns disputes over credit for the E-1027 villa in the South of France. The dastardly Le Corbusier (Vincent Perez), when not inexplicably delivering speeches to camera, scowls chauvinistically at Eileen (Orla Brady) while she ploughs through another few entries from WikiGray. “I often wonder if art bears analysis,” she says. Let’s find out, shall we?

Too many Cote d’Azure exteriors are shot in weird soft focus that suggests comic dream sequences from Absolutely Fabulous. The film-makers are so delighted with Brian Byrne’s lovely music that they shovel it over virtually every scene, thus suggesting a condition of permanent emotional climax.

Economic restrictions cause the German occupation to be represented by two Wehrmacht privates waving pistols. The less said about Alanis Morissette’s rendition of La Marseillaise, the sooner I will stop jolting awake in a cold sweat each night.

No blame should be attached to Orla Brady, an excellent actress who reads out the footnotes in a voice swollen with more character than the text deserves. There is genuinely interesting information here and the E-1027 house – shown promiscuously to confirm the film-makers’ access – looks perfectly delightful in the artfully blotched light.

Fans of Ms Gray should, however, approach with expectations tempered.[/2STARS][BYLINE9]