‘Never Look Away’ Should Be Better

Gerhard Richter Biopic Feels Tame and Glossy

Tom Schilling stars as the fictional Kurt Barnert

Caleb Deschanel/Sony Pictures Classics

Tom Schilling stars as the fictional Kurt Barnert

Director Henckel von Donnersmarck, who dropped moviegoers into the paranoid landscape of East Berlin with his Oscar-winning 2006 film The Lives of Others, stirred controversy with his new film about another slice of German life, Never Look Away, loosely based on the life, times, and fascinating, mercurial work of Gerhard Richter. Richter, 87, a recluse considered one of our most important living artists, was none too pleased. Opening with a “degenerate art” show in Dresden, circa 1937, and moving through Communist bloc life, studies with Joseph Beuys and his “blur painting” breakthrough, the three-hour film feels tame and glossy compared to the challenges of Richter’s art over the decades. Still, it conveys a compelling, polished tale, a portrait of an artist who filtered troubled times into a suitably complex, blurry, layered aesthetic voice. Richter deserves better.