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Films on Tap: Mystery of Picasso

February 1, 2011

Mystery of Picasso DVD

Just as visual artists understand the relationship between positive and negative space in their work, France’s master filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique) understood–and set about demonstrating via The Mystery of Picasso–the relationship between creation and destruction in the artistic process. In 1955, Clouzot teamed with his friend Pablo Picasso to capture as many aspects of the brilliant painter’s working methods as possible. Clouzot innovatively placed the camera in front of Picasso while the latter worked, thus capturing astonishing reverse images of brush strokes and “bleeding” inks in volatile motion. The result is that Clouzot’s film–the screen, the frame–become Picasso’s canvas, and we find ourselves inside his prodigious genius as works of beauty spontaneously burst forth and are instantly crushed beneath the weight of new images, new ideas. A viewer would be forgiven if, more than once, he felt like screaming at such nonchalant carnage. –Tom Keogh

Product Description
Like a matador confronting a bull, the artist approaches his easel. As he wields his brush, the painting dances into being before our eyes. Pablo Picasso, the most influential artist of the 20th century, is making art, and famous French director Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique, The Wages of Fear) is making a movie. This entirely new kind of art documentary captures the moment and the mystery of creativity; for the film, the master created 20 artworks, ranging from playful black-and-white sketches to widescreen color paintings. Using inks that bled through the paper, Picasso rapidly created fanciful drawings that Clouzot was able to film from the reverse side, capturing their creation in real time. When the artist decided to paint in oils, the filmmaker switched to color film and employed the magic of stop-motion animation. By contract, almost all of these paintings were destroyed when the film was completed. Unavailable for more than a decade, “The Mystery of Picasso” is exhilarating, mesmerizing, and unforgettable; it is simply one of the greatest documentaries on art ever made. The French government agrees; in 1984 it declared the film a national treasure.

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