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18 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A priceless document for anyone seriously interested in art

Author: stephen-357 from United States
26 January 2005

One of the greatest filmmakers of France, Henri-Georges Clouzot, makes a film about his friend Pablo Picasso, perhaps the 20th Century's most renown artist. Clouzot begins with a proposition: if one were present at the conception of a great artistic masterpiece such as Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, and could peek inside the mind of the artist, what would one see? Fortunately, the visual art of painting offers a filmmaker that insight, and so Clouzot begins with Picasso in a dark room with white light directed at an empty canvas. The artist, like a bullfighter, confronts and ultimately displaces the empty space with drama and suspense. Clouzot takes a minimalist approach which chooses to focus on the art rather than the artist, and he achieves this objective by having Picasso sit on one side of a translucent canvas, and the camera on the other capturing only the ink or paint that has been administered, without the distraction or impediment of the artist - pure creation. A window into the mind of the artist! Twenty artworks are created in this manner, each being overlayed with the often suspenseful sounds of Georges Auric's excellent score. With THE MYSTERY OF PICASSO, art becomes exhilarating as one attempts to anticipate what Picasso will do next. "How will he resolve this problem?" Clouzot has created a priceless document for anyone seriously interested in art.

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Picasso's cubical...

10/10
Author: mcshortfilm from United States
4 August 2005

If there was one word to describe this film for me, it would be "inspirational". And I think anyone who practices art or appreciates the process of art, can find this film enjoyable to watch. The film's title speaks for itself. We are engaged in an experimental documentary watching a prodigy at work and trying to unravel the magic of how it all happens. In the beginning there is a voice-over narrated introduction to the film, "Nobody knew what Rimbaud thought of when he wrote the poem "the drunk boat"." And then we realize that we are in for a real treat. Who would ever guess that the master of cubism would allow us to see his creative ideas at work? Most artists are very stubborn about this sort of thing, but then again most famous artists are also pretty ego-centric. The film places the camera behind a canvas that leaves the image transparent so that we can see the painting process without looking over the shoulder. There is a beautiful classical score along with this film and as the drawings progress, Picasso then takes on bigger challenges with paintings. The pacing is just right where the drawing process starts slow and then the strokes become faster with time-lapse photography. There is an amazing moment where the cameraman warns Picasso that he is about to run out of film. Picasso asks how many feet is left and calculates the timing of his painting and just at the last second, Picasso transforms the entire piece into something unexpected and radically different. We can see the spontaneity and playfulness in his work. The end is a mural shaped painting that evolves through many stages until Picasso says something like "its ruined. I have ruined the painting and yet at the same time, its improving." This is an indication of Picasso's fearless drive. When he paints, he is on fire. He works diligently for hours. Its fascinating to see little figures that he will paint over and over with more detail or more color. He wants to emphasize details that seem so ambiguous and its as if he's saying to the audience "look at this" "keep looking at this" "this is important." I first saw this film in the theater when I was about ten or twelve years old. I'm glad my family friends took me to see this. It has inspired me throughout the years. I saw the film again when I was twenty-four and it was just as I remembered it. After it was over, I did the same thing I did when I first saw the film; I pulled out a sketchbook and started drawing. This film is a real treat.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Fascinating! A must see for artists and art lovers.

9/10
Author: melissa.ricks from Houston, Texas
28 June 2001

I received a VHS copy of this film from a friend who was going to trash it. My mother weaned me on trips to art galleries, spoon fed me stories of the personal lives of classic and modern masters, I worked in an art gallery liaisoning with the artists we represented and studied the psychology of creativity in college. This film had me riveted! I felt as though I was invited to eavesdrop, peek in on a great master at work. Every brush stroke was fascinating. I enjoyed the trip Picasso took me on as he started out painting one image and changed it into something else along the way. I enjoyed watching what appeared to be random brush strokes turn into a completed thought. This film helped me feel what it must be like to know when to stop... to know when you have finished a work... when you may have overworked it, when you may not have quite completed. It made me want to paint, not for others but for the simple pleasure one gets from the act of putting pigment on paper. It allowed me to feel free to create without fear of criticism. A must see for all artist and art lovers.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Delightful

Author: butterfinger
23 November 2004

Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Mystery of Picasso starts by announcing that we will have the pleasure of entering the mind of Pablo Picasso, seeing how he gets his creative inspiration; the film promises us that the only way to do this is to watch Picasso's hand. Picasso paints on paper that the ink bleeds through, putting the camera on the other side of Picasso's canvas and watching the a reversed version painting appear in a seemingly magical way. It becomes clear early on that Clouzot is not wholeheartedly trying to show us how Picasso gets his inspiration; that is a mystery. Clouzot wants to capture the joy of painting. That's what makes this film so entertaining: watching bizarre, beautiful images appear out of nowhere. Sometimes Clouzot uses jump-cuts to show us the different phases of a work in progress at a rapid-fire velocity and then reverses the painting in the same jump-cut technique, deconstructing Picasso's. This is all scored to fiery jazz music. We also see Picasso while painting, as his painting is timed. (Picasso has a great screen presence). Clouzot is equally concerned with deconstructing Picasso's work to understand what makes this fast-working artist tick, showing how impossible that task is, and wowing us all the way through. As far as wowing goes, Clouzot did a pretty good job, with scenes that ranged from unforgettable to pleasantly surprising.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

astonishing

8/10
Author: cscjr8 from San Francisco, USA
17 May 2001

This film reminds us that film is visual - very few words are spoken in Le Mystère Picasso. Instead, the camera just trains in canvas and white paper and watches Picasso create. It could have been boring, but instead it's hypnotic. One learns about the creative process without lecture!

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A film as a priceless treasure:

10/10
Author: Galina from Virginia, USA
14 April 2007

A-one-of-a-kind look at the artistic process, the unique art documentary captures the creativity itself. Two friends, the great painter and the great director, Pablo Picasso and Henri-George Clouzot decided to do what Goethe's Faust had dreamed about - to capture and to store forever the moment of beauty and inspiration. Picasso conceives, sketches, and paints twenty canvases before our eyes as the camera rolls. The film did not solve the mystery of Picasso who had said about himself, "When I was 9 years old, I could paint like Rafael; as an adult, all my life I tried to learn how to paint like a child" but it lets us to be the eye-witnesses of the amazing process - the birth of twenty works of art into existence. Twenty exiting moments the only Artist could live through are captured forever for us to enjoy again and again. Clouzot uses a specially designed transparent 'canvas' to provide an unobstructed view and different techniques including slow motion animation to let the main character, the invisible Picasso's brush speak for itself. The film is accompanied by exquisite music and gorgeous photography by Claude Renoir, grandson of impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and nephew of Jean Renoir. The paintings created by Picasso in the film cannot be seen anywhere else. They were destroyed upon completion of the film. The French government has taken over the preservation of the original negative and has declared this truly unique and priceless documentary a national (and I would call it an international) treasure.

Criterion DVD also includes "Guernica", a short documentary directed in 1950 by Alain Resnais before any of his feature films. Picasso's "Guernica" is one of the most famous paintings of the 20th Century which was created by the artist in response to bombing and destroying the ancient Basque town of Guernica by German aviation on April 27 1937 during Spanish Civil War. The painting is a passionate protest against war as well as the fascinating work of art. Resnais' 13 minutes short film is based on paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Pablo Picasso from 1902 until 949 including "Guernica" and is set against the ode written by French lyrical poet Paul Éluard and recited by Jacques Pruvost and María Casarès. In his early short film, Resnais already uses his famous jump cuts and cross-fades. "Guernica" is a valuable feature which goes well together with the marvelous "The Mystery of Picasso" and adds to understanding one of the most prolific and mysterious Artists of the last century.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A French National Treasure

8/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
31 January 2006

Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French director of the masterpieces "Les Diaboliques" and "Le Salaire de la Peur" convinced his friend Pablo Picasso to make this documentary, painting twenty paints in front of the cameras. Using some special technique, Clouzot filmed from the other side of the canvas or stop-motion, and the result is this movie, where two geniuses are gathered: one behind and the other in front of the camera. In accordance with the information on the DVD, the canvases have been destroyed in the end of the shootings. Further, in 1984, the French government declared this documentary a national treasure. Clouzot and Picasso deserved this beautiful homage. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Mistério de Picasso" ("The Mystery of Picasso")

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Better than expected

Author: t-collins-1 from Cambridge, MA
29 July 2004

I've always known that Pablo Picasso was one of the most prolific characters of the 20th century. I've also heard about how this film was made many times before, that is with the translucent screen between the camera and Picasso. At the beginning I thought that it was a bit slow and I remember wondering if I was in the midst of 2 hours of Picasso drawing picture after picture. And indeed it was, with a few breaks where we actually see and hear Picasso interact with the camera men. But, amazingly, once you get into watching the short drawing exercises, it becomes very captivating. You aren't sure what he's drawing, and then a line and a squiggle later it is a bull or a woman or whatever. The most mesmerizing part though, as another writer said, was when he was painting the beach scene and he kept painting over his work over and over again. What he was painting over was amazing and it made you wonder why he felt like it just didn't work.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One of the best things that I've ever seen.

10/10
Author: crow1001 from San Mateo, CA.
10 February 2004

I was moved beyond words. It was amazing to see what this man was doing on canvas second-to-second. To actually see the decisions made and the mannerisms in his strokes is something that I did not know was possible until I saw this film on IFC. This is priceless.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The mystery

9/10
Author: miloc from Bronx, New York
23 September 2011

Director Henri-Georges Clouzot, best known in America for his expert thrillers (Diabolique, The Wages of Fear, Le Corbeau) captures a different kind of suspense in this astonishing documentary: can the viewer think faster than Picasso?

Of course not, don't be ridiculous. Pablo Picasso, seen here in his seventies, creates 20-odd paintings for the camera (a couple of them in real time), running rings around us as he goes. We see a line cross the screen, and then another, and then color spatters about; drawn on bleed-through paper the images come to us unmediated, like daydreams. Before we know it scenes take shape, populated by Picasso's stock company of matadors, clowns, leering old men, and towering, serene, bare-breasted women, their faces regally aloof.

This is Picasso Playful. Clouzot informs him at one point that there are only five minutes of film left and asks him what he wants to do. The old man replies "It'll be a surprise," quickly sketching a bouquet of roses and then taking it through acrobatic transformations, faking us out with deadpan glee. His buoyancy counterweights some of the director's more awkward touches, such as the portentous intro, some over-dramatic music, a few probably staged conversations... but who cares? This is dynamic, visual cinema-- in a sense, a great animated film.

Some of the earlier drawings are merely a master's doodles; others make your jaw drop with their absolute sureness of line. He'll send a stroke wriggling upward, graceful as a ribbon of smoke, and suddenly that wriggle is a bull with man tossed on its horns, and as the shapes gather and the colors erupt the thing becomes impossibly beautiful, a small perfection. Picasso returns to the image later, breaking out the oils, and here the film truly takes off. "I want to go deeper," Picasso tells Clouzot, and he does. We realize what we were missing in those first drawings: texture. The head of a goat coheres and takes on animal reality, the pigments bright as stained glass. Picasso ages it, makes it solid. What would be a major work for a lesser artist here is a throwaway, literally; the paintings were destroyed after filming. The least of them could have paid for my house.

In that intro Clouzot says something about "looking into the mind of the artist" or somesuch, but the title really says it all. At the beginning the artist saunters out shirtless from the studio's shadows. At the end he declares, "It is finished," and saunters back. What could possibly account for the existence of a Pablo Picasso remains a mystery untouched.

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