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.


Judith HeartSong said...

Oh delightful Sydney, I cannot wait to see the film!

Judith HeartSong said...


Connie said...

Wow Sydney!! Thanks for telling me...I have always been fascinated and had a sort of crush on Picasso...kind of warped when you thing the ol' guy's been dead for quite awhile!

Hope you're having a beautiful week so far!!

Peace & Love.

willow said...

Yes, how did you know I would love this?! I'm off to Netflix right now... Thank you!! :)

DeeDee/Zom said...

thanks for giving me the link to this post Sydney. It definitely sounds worth seeing. I will look for it in our local alternative DVD store.

Sandra Evertson said...

Fabulous! Thanks for letting me know about this!

Sandra Evertson

Robbie said...

I loved this movie. I got it through Netflix. I actually have a blog entry in my draft pile about this that I never finished writing to post. I should dust it off one of these days and post it. But, for those interested, you can find a clip of the movie on Youtube.

I had trouble watching him cover over stuff too. I kept thinking why isn't he stopping. Then it would twist and turn and get even better or would be equally could but in a different way. Completely amazing. Funny! I was going to post a picture of a quick sketch I did tonight. But, it looks like I won't because Blogger is going down.

emmapeelDallas said...


Thanks so much! I actually saw this movie once, over 25 years ago, and although it's quite unforgettable, I hadn't thought about it in years. Now, thanks to you, I'll get it and watch it again! Of course, it's directed by one of my favorite directors, Clouzot. I absolutely love his Diabolique and also The Wages of Fear. So thank you, Sydney, for taking the time to leave me a message about it, and the link to your terrific review!


bLu eYd YoGi said...

Sydney~ i am going to have to find that movie! i just recently asw Frida! and LOVED it!
thanks so much for peeking in on my blog & i'm so glad you started the challenge! LET'S DO IT!

Shayla said...

Wow, that sounds incredible! I'm going to track it down.

Jeane said...

Hi Sydney - I saw this years ago and agree with everything you've said - also, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your very kind comments.

bLu eYd YoGi said...

hEy sYdNey! i just wanted to INVITE YOU to the Big Halloween BASH ~
today! over at my blog! Stop by & have some cider :)

Donna in AL said...

My son, the graphic art student, is looking to find this now, thanks to you.

Chris' Shady Grove said...

Thanks for telling me about this film. I look forward to seeing it.

MzAmy said...

Wow. this does look interesting.
Thanks for sharing!

I love this kind of stuff. :)