Monday, October 13, 2008

For My Art Journal Friends

I want to reccommend a movie called "The Mystery of Picasso". It's an old black and white documentary, shot by Claude Renior, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.  It's in my all time top ten favorite movies.

The intention of the filmmakers is to show the process of the mind of an artist during the act of creation, using none other than Pablo Picasso himself. It opens with the narrator's musings: What if you would watch Shakespeare write, see how the words are born in his brain and take their journey to form verse and make their way through the pen to paper... that kind of thing. While he says this, you are seeing Picasso sitting at a large canvas, shirtless and smoking, the whites of his large eyes and his smooth bald head exaggerated by the lack of color.

The camera moves you to an angle that captures the canvas from behind as Picasso sits beside it. Then --you see his brush hit a spot. From there it draws a line up and over, down to the left, then in squiggly lines brought up to where he first started. In one swift action you realize he's drawn a chicken. From there he begins to fill it in. Suddenly, you realize you're in for something really special.

After this little intro, the canvas fills the frame and you sit back in awe as Picasso disappears from view, to paint in reverse image. By the third drawing you get entirely lost in the mesmerizing process, yet the whole time your pulse is elevated a bit by the knowledge that it is he who is attached to the dancing brush. For 75 minutes, they manage to capture for the viewer, as good as it's ever going to get, just what goes on from a master in the moment of creation.

You see how playful and spontaneous he is, when, where and how he uses pigment (once he uses oils the film switches to color), discover that,though known for his abstracts, he was able to draw with stunning realism and with great ease... and that many of his most absurd scenes had very accurate pencil drawings underneath. It is hard to watch him cover over something he just did with an entirely different kind of picture, but it's so fresh to see it happen before your every eyes!

It gets better. Each of the 20 master works he did here were destroyed so they only exist on this film. The Mystery of Picasso has since been declared a French National Treasure.

I noticed it's available for purchase again (CLICK HERE), after decades of being out of print. It's about time. Thanks and affection go to SJ for turning me on to this, and Cocteau's Beauty and The Beast, when I was just 22.