The Mystery Of Picasso

  • 1956
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

A mesmerizing document of the artistic process, made possible by filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot's friendship with painter Pablo Picasso. Clouzot (best known for his thrillers, THE WAGES OF FEAR and DIABOLIQUE) persuaded Picasso to sit behind a transparent sheet of paper and work — in magic marker, color and black-and-white ink, and finally...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A mesmerizing document of the artistic process, made possible by filmmaker

Henri-Georges Clouzot's friendship with painter Pablo Picasso. Clouzot (best

known for his thrillers, THE WAGES OF FEAR and DIABOLIQUE) persuaded Picasso

to sit behind a transparent sheet of paper and work — in magic marker,

color and black-and-white ink, and finally oils — while Clouzot filmed

from the other side. To the viewer, Picasso's trademark subjects —

bathers, bulls, circus performers, goats, matadors, still lives — seem to

appear magically, like lines on an etch-a-sketch. Apparently random strokes

resolve themselves into images, which become increasingly complex;

occasionally the process ends with an angry wash of black ink that obliterates

everything. The emerging images are accompanied by a vigorous (and sometimes

distracting) score by composer Georges Auric and, occasionally, traditional

flamenco music. Sometimes the process of creation unfolds in real time; at

others, time-lapse photography compresses five-hours of work into mere

minutes. In one sequence, Picasso promises the filmmakers a little magic, and starts work on a simple sketch of flowers that he transforms, in rapid

succession, into the image of a fish, a chicken, and finally a devilish head

looming over a small landscape. This is also the sequence in which Clouzot

takes the viewer behind the scenes, and it's fascinating to eavesdrop on

Picasso and Clouzot chatting, artist to artist, about the nuts and bolts of

what they're going to do. How much film do they have left? Five minutes —

that's plenty. Is Picasso tired — would he prefer to do this sketch in

black-and-white or color? He's not tired and color is more fun, says the

bare-chested painter, clad only in a pair of fisherman's shorts. There's no

theorizing here, no critical perspective or historical context. Just Picasso

painting, until the moment he fills a large white canvas with his name and

declares, "That's the end." You could hardly ask for more.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A mesmerizing document of the artistic process, made possible by filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot's friendship with painter Pablo Picasso. Clouzot (best known for his thrillers, THE WAGES OF FEAR and DIABOLIQUE) persuaded Picasso to sit behind a… (more)

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