26 user 25 critic

Surviving Picasso (1996)

1:24 | Trailer
The passionate Merchant Ivory drama tells the story of Françoise Gilot (Natascha McElhone), the only lover of Pablo Picasso (Sir Anthony Hopkins) who was strong enough to withstand his ferocious cruelty, and move on with her life.


James Ivory


Arianna Huffington (book) (as Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington), Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (screenplay)





Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Hopkins ... Pablo Picasso
Natascha McElhone ... Françoise Gilot
Julianne Moore ... Dora Maar
Joss Ackland ... Henri Matisse
Dennis Boutsikaris ... Kootz
Peter Eyre ... Sabartes
Peter Gerety ... Marcel
Susannah Harker ... Marie-Thérèse
Jane Lapotaire ... Olga Picasso
Joseph Maher ... Kahnweiler
Bob Peck ... Françoise's Father
Diane Venora ... Jacqueline
Dominic West ... Paulo Picasso
Joan Plowright ... Françoise's Grandmother
Laura Aikman ... Maya


In 1943, a young painter, Françoise Gilot (1921- ) (Natascha McElhone) meets Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) (Sir Anthony Hopkins), already the most celebrated artist in the world. For the next ten years, she is his mistress, bears him two children, is his muse, and paints within his element. She also learns slowly about the other women who have been or still are in his life: Dora Maar (Julianne Moore), Marie-Thérèse (Susannah Harker) (whose daughter is Picasso's), and Olga Koklowa (Jane Lapotaire), each of whom seems deeply scarred by their life with Picasso. Gilot's response is to bring each into her relationship with Picasso. How does one survive Picasso? She keeps painting, and she keeps her good humor and her independence. When the time comes, she has the strength to leave. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Only his passion for women could rival his passion for painting.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of nudity and brief sex-related language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Sir Anthony Hopkins was a close friend and frequent collaborator with Director Sir Richard Attenborough, who had his own extensive collection of Picasso prints. See more »


Dora Maar: It's true, I do not have a child. But I think he finds me equally, if not more amusing without one.
See more »


Featured in At the Movies: Memo to the Academy - 1997 (1997) See more »

User Reviews

Worthy and well acted but simply not very involving
8 May 2003 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

A bio-pic on the life of artist Pablo Picasso focusing on his wilder side – his rampant relationships with his many women, as seen from the perspective and understanding of the mother of many of his children – Françoise Gilot.. We pick up the story where Gilot meets Picasso with the intention of becoming his student.

I was slightly interested in this film as it seemed to have a high quality cast. I must admit that I have little interest in art and have a very limited knowledge of the work and life of Picasso. However I was open to learning and I hoped this film would enlighten me in some way – either in his work or his life. The film's focus is Picasso's private life rather than his work, this was an odd decision not to weave any of his work into the film in a significant way but it didn't put me off. What DID put me off was the fact that the film didn't involve me to the degree I had hoped it would. I'm not a consistent fan of Merchant & Ivory films simply because, unless they get it bang on (Remains of the Day) then they do leave me feeling a bit cold. Here that detached feeling was what I had the whole way through – I never felt for any of the characters or situations and never really got involved in the film, it was simply on in the same room as I was sitting more than me watching it.

It's a shame because the film is beautifully made – for all their faults, Merchant & Ivory films usually get that right. The sets and locations add to the film and are well shot. The cast is the main reason for watching this. Hopkins does very well in the lead and is running free for much of it. It confused me that I couldn't manage to link to his character – maybe I was watching Hopkins act as opposed to seeing the character. It's ironic that his best performance for Merchant & Ivory was the total opposite of this in Remains of the Day (controlled, low key, subtle). McElhone is partly responsible for me not feeling involved in the film. I felt she was too cold, too emotionless and not expressive enough in the lead female role. Good support is given by Moore and others, and Ackland is good as Henri Matisse.

Overall this is not as awful or boring as some would have you believe – Hopkins performance saves it from being that. But it did not involve me at all – I was left quite cold to it even though the passion in Hopkins' performance made me think I was missing something. It's hard to put into words but this film doesn't manage to hold the interest – not because of the subject, but more likely in the way it has been delivered.

11 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 26 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »






Release Date:

20 September 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ahavotav Shel Picasso See more »

Filming Locations:

France See more »


Box Office


$16,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$87,054, 22 September 1996

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page

Recently Viewed