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Using a specially designed transparent 'canvas' to provide an unobstructed view, Picasso creates as the camera rolls. He begins with simple works that take shape after only a single brush stroke. He then progresses to more complex paintings, in which he repeatedly adds and removes elements, transforming the entire scene at will, until at last the work is complete.Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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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