Charles Strickland, a London stockbroker, remarkable only for being outstandingly boring, leaves his wife and kids and goes off to Paris to learn to paint. There he turns into a heartless Nietzschean superman. A soft-hearted Dutch painter saves his life and he repays him by walking off with his wife, then dumping her. He is not exactly a seducer. He follows his destiny and if moths flutter into his hard gem-like flame so much the worse for them. He moves to Tahiti- which is full of Conradian soaks and hula-hula girls- marries a dusky maiden, makes a speech about women having no souls to mask the fact that he's falling in love, contracts leprosy, paints a final masterpiece (Gauguin meets Art Deco) and dies having left instructions that it should be burned. Cue raging inferno.
An end title flops up, telling us that Strickland may have been a great artist, but nothing can excuse the "ugliness" of his life. Phew, thank you Hays Code, you just saved me from jumping on the first tramp steamer to Polynesia.
Albert Lewin made a number of odd, infuriating, cack-handed but impassioned movies. The best of the ones I've seen is The Picture of Dorian Gray. This was the first. It aspires to be Citizen Kane but obviously isn't. At times its reliance on voice-over narration reduces it to an illustrated lecture. George Sanders is magnetic as Strickland.