The 'Exhibition on Screen' series gave us yesterday the opportunity to watch at the local cinematheque the great exhibition of Matisse's works in the final decade of his life, organized five years ago by Tate Modern in London and MoMA in New York. Director Phil Grabsky, a film art specialist, made on that occasion the documentary 'Matisse Live' (known under various titles as 'Matisse from Tate Modern and MoMA'). A delight.
The formula is the same as that used in other documentaries in the series. We have the opportunity to visit the exhibition (in this case the exhibitions, organized in collaboration by the two major museums one after the other) in the pre-opening hours. Rooms are empty, no crowds. Grabsky takes us from to hall, so the experience is close to virtual reality. The directors of the two museums, the curators and other experts explain in detail the exhibited works. We deal with an experience of a guided tour of a quality competing with the real thing, and I'm not sure which one offers more.
In the last period of his life, covered by the exhibition, between 1941 and 1954, Matisse was immobilized in bed. Far from being vanquished by the limitations imposed by the illness, the artist sought other means of expression - especially the cuts and collages, but also the design of architectural spaces (the Rosary Chapel in Vence) and stained glass. He had the chance to be filmed quite often, and precious film sequences also find their place in the documentary, along with interviews with two of his late-life assistants. 'Matisse Live' thus becomes not only a lesson in art, but also a lesson the desire and the will to create, in the power of the spirit to overcome the limitations of matter. A documentary that I strongly recommend.
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