Portrait of an aging narcissist

James, a talented young art gallery assistant (Christopher Briney) gets the experience of a lifetime when he is tasked with helping the aging genius Salvadore Dali prepare for an important New York show in 1974.

It’s impossible for any person or film to explain Dali. Who would try? But as we follow James down the rabbit hole into Dali’s renowned parties, his atelier and his personal relationships, we also get quite a ride. Director Mary Harron’s previous efforts include I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho and Graceland.

It was a time when the surrealist’s immense powers and fame were fading. To finance his lavish parties, his agents were selling knockoff offset prints as genuine lithos, a practice about which he professed ignorance. His once unshakable relationship with his wife and muse Gala (a superb Barbara Sukowa) was showing signs of strain. His health was not good.

Ben Kingsley as Dali seems odd at first, but after a while, really, who else? Ezra Miller plays the young Dali in flashbacks, and Rupert Graves is manager Captain Moore.

In the end, this is hardly the inside look it promises. It’s an entertaining and haunting film, but it plays it pretty safe and comes off as a bit conventional. Nevertheless, I love these little indies that teach me things I didn’t know, and this one remains a must for art lovers. (97 min)

Out in theatres now.