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.
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David Hugh Jones
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
The movie is about Francoise Gilot, not about Picasso. It is not intended to tell Picasso's story. Picasso was brilliant, spectacular, the living center of the world of art and a sexual magnet. Women wanted him and, king that he was, Picasso viewed their adoration as no more than his due.
Francoise Gilot, a talented painter in her own right - but no Picasso - lives for ten years a life which for her is absolutely worth the pain. And when the pain is so grave that she will surely be overwhelmed, she stands up and leaves. The pain doesn't go away instantly, but it does go away, in time.
In one memorable scene, Gilot, at home with the baby, questions Picasso's absences, his obvious womanizing. He tells her in no uncertain terms that he will do as he chooses, that his life outside their home is none of her business. She has no right to question him. He doesn't say, "Take it or leave it," but that is the unmistakable message. She takes it, for a few more years, and another child.
It would be interesting to know whether Gilot, who was born in 1921 and is apparently still with us, harbors regret. I cannot imagine that she does. Of course she would have enjoyed that ten years better if Picasso had been able to love, in some recognizable way. But would she trade that life for one less magnificent? For one that would not be a good movie? Hardly.
The acting is of course perfect. Anthony Hopkins becomes the man Picasso. Natascha McElhone, Julianne Moore and Susanna Harker tell us the truth. Well paced, finely directed, this movie tells a riveting story. It is very, very good.
It is perhaps worthy of note that many of the negative reviews of this movie are written by men. Picasso was not just difficult; he was a Difficult Man.
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