Portrait of the Artist

Rating: NNNNNTHE MYSTERY OF PICASSO (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1956) is a sometimes enthralling, sometimes grating documentary about the creative process. Picasso,.


Rating: NNNNN


THE MYSTERY OF PICASSO (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1956) is a sometimes enthralling, sometimes grating documentary about the creative process. Picasso, clad only in Bermuda shorts, sits in a sparse studio and draws on semi-transparent paper. Clouzot, notorious French director of thrillers like Diabolique and The Wages Of Fear, zooms in on the other side of the easel so it looks like the paintings are coming to life directly on the screen. What enthralls is Picasso’s confidence — the ease with which he shapes folded legs, then a torso, then a face with its perfect inquisitive expression in 10 seconds flat. What grates is the collective arrogance of these men, on egregious display whenever the camera pulls back and shows them showing off to each other. Clouzot dares Picasso to paint something in five minutes, then crosscuts his brushstrokes with close-ups of his eyes as if we were watching a suspense film. (The finished painting, by the way, is of a chicken.) Georges Auric’s lurid score compounds the bombast. Skim off the egos, though, and what remains is an unparalleled art class. NNN (May 3-5, Cinematheque)

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