Well, I survived SURVIVING PICASSO, but I am not sure why I chose
to. I could have walked out after about thirty minutes and gotten the
gist of the picture which is that Picasso was a boisterous enigma who
had numerous parallel affairs with younger women.
Usually reliable Anthony Hopkins's portrayal of Pablo Picasso shed
no light on him as a man or a painter. I left knowing little more than
when I arrived. The only bright light in the film is screen newcomer
Natasha McElhone as Francoise Gilot, who was one of Picasso's
girlfriends and wives. McElhone has a infectious smile and inner
strength, and the camera loves her. I look forward to seeing her in a
much better movie.
SURVIVING PICASSO tells the story of Picasso's love affairs from
the time of the Nazi occupation of Paris to his death decades later.
His painting is treated as secondary material, but for me it is the
best part. In fact the only truly involving scene in the entire film
is when cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts (REMAINS OF THE DAY,
HOWARDS END, and A ROOM WITH A VIEW) zooms in for a close-up of the
paint in one of the few times Picasso holds a brush in the show.
Actually, all of the cinematography is done well and the colors
are reflective of the bright primary colors in Picasso's paintings.
Don't look for his paintings in the film however since his son would
not permit them to be shown in the picture. Also, worth noting is the
colorful pastel costumes by Carol Ramsey and the surreal sets by
Luciana Arrighi. They add a bit of fun to an otherwise dull movie.
When Picasso first meets Francoise and her girlfriend, he warns
them, "You are in the labyrinth of the Minotaur. You should know that
the Minotaur consumes at least two maidens a day." His view of himself
as a dirty old man is shared by his previous lover Dora Maar (Julianne
Moore) who tells him, "You may be a great painter, but you are morally
corrupt. You've contaminated the whole world."
The script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on the book by Arianna
Stassinopoulos Huffington, paints an unflattering picture of the artist
as a vain and sexist man. Picasso explains to Dora that, "I really
like intelligent women. Sometimes, of course, I like stupid ones too,"
referring to her.
The show argues that Picasso viewed women as mere objects. Upon
seeing a cat in a field he remarks, "I love wild cats. They are always
pregnant because they think of nothing but love." He then forces
Francoise to watch as a big bird swoops down and kills the poor cat.
Picasso is not shown to have a remorseful bone in his body. The
closest he comes is when he declares, "I make a lot of mistakes, but so
There is one bit of interesting Picasso trivia I did learn. It
seems that he saved every piece of cut hair and every nail clipping of
his. He had them carefully numbered and dated so that no one could
steal them and do black magic against him. One strange guy.
SURVIVING PICASSO runs a very s-l-o-w 2:03. It is rated R, but it
is a soft R. There is a single brief scene of full female frontal
nudity. The language is pretty mild, and there is no sex or violence.
The film would be fine for any teenager, but I see no reason anyone
would want to sit through this pointless biography of Picasso's many
affairs so I give it a thumbs down and award it a single *.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes