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Thursday, October 22, 2009


Pablo Picasso after WWII: Spent force living off past achievements (see Simon Schama; et al.) or Still the most vital artist of the last century (see Tony Richardson; et al.)? Henri-Georges Clouzot’s po-faced documentary, which concentrates on live painting rather than the painter, supplies arguments for each side of the debate. Clouzot, best-known for WAGES OF FEAR/'52 and DIABOLIQUE/'55, is content to stand back as cinematic witness letting Picasso work & rework a score of paintings directly for the camera. And for much of the film, we see a doodler of genius. (Or perhaps a genius doodling.) A man selling his name, not his art. But things change dramatically in the last three reels when a sketch of a goat’s head captures Picasso’s full attention. After this, the screen, which has already shifted from b&w to color, opens up from Academy ration to CinemaScope and the compositions come blazingly to life. There’s a lot of fun in seeing elements of Matisse and (who knew?) Chagall briefly appear only to be swept away as the canvas finds itself; and it’s a joyous treat to see Picasso find himself as he goes along.

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