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The Mystery of Picasso

48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

Amazon.com

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

Special Features

  • Short Film: Alain Resnais' "Guernica" (1950, 13 min.)

Product Details

  • Actors: Pablo Picasso, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Claude Renoir, María Casares, Jacques Pruvost
  • Directors: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Alain Resnais, Robert Hessens
  • Writers: Paul Éluard
  • Producers: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Pierre Braunberger
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, Letterboxed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 4, 2003
  • Run Time: 75 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00007ELEI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,003 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Mystery of Picasso" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 15, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A Fabulous film showing how an artist- in this case Picasso- takes a blank sheet of paper or canvas and transforms it into a work of art. Thru a special process that lets the inks bleed thru to the wrong side of the canvas where a camera captures the developement of a drawing from the first placement of a brush stroke to the final completed drawing/painting. Sometimes it is truly amazing to see what comes forth from the humble beginnings. We also are able to follow the developement of paintings as well with the aide of stop motion photography. I wish I were an art teacher so I could share this with my students! An enjoyable film for anyone with an interest in art!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Luis M. Benito on September 11, 2003
Format: DVD
This film is a real treat, as gives us an insight into the work of Picasso by literally allowing us to see the master at work and how his simple brush strokes incredibly evolve into masterpieces, in some instances even metamorphosing before our eyes from a figurative piece in to a cubist expression of the same. This is a film that I was pleasantly surprised to see my 5-year-old son sit through shearing my amazement as Picasso worked for the camera. It's a definite "must have" for those that like Picasso and who, after viewing this movie, will appreciate his work even more!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jose M Estrada on December 27, 2002
Format: DVD
I once saw this film on television, late at night. This was at least ten years ago, and despite having seen it only once, many of the images are still fresh in my mind. Along with Alex Cox's "Vincent", an extraordinary documentary about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, this is probably the best portrait of the work and life of an artist. Worth every penny.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William J. Havlicek, PhD on February 24, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Anyone who cares about Picasso or is even slightly interested must watch this film. Picasso promises the viewer that she will be shown the mystery of Picasso and his art. This promise made by the master himself. He does not disappoint either because he takes us on a ride of a lifetime with one work after the other created before the viewers eyes. He allows himself to get into real trouble and to effectively ruin a work only to pull it out of the ashes and go on. Learning from each so called mistake. In this presentation on seeing, the real mistake is not learning about the patient work that painting requires. Picasso will encourage and inspire us all in a life changing way. A must see! William Havlicek PhD
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jorge L. Peschiera on October 4, 2005
Format: DVD
This is a straightforward documentation of Picasso's painting and drawing process. If you are looking for commentary, historical background, etc. look elsewhere. That being said, the film is a unique opportunity to see the master at work. Most interesting are the paintings, which utterly transform before your eyes as he creates and destroys layers upon layers of imagery before being satisfied with the result. It is impossible to see these hidden and discarded images, many of which are dazzling, in a finished Picasso. Some of the works in this film are masterpieces superior to many Picassos that hang in museums today, and they can only be seen here.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Peter Ford on February 24, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating demonstration by Picasso of his creative ability and his working technique. It is amazing to see how he begins a drawing or a painting at an improbable point, e.g. the upper left hand corner of the canvas, with a line which looks quite baffling at first, but which rapidly develops into a complete and intelligible picture. His mastery of drawing is evident at every moment. No erasing. No shaky lines. It is evident that he has a mental impression of the picture before he starts, so that the picture that emerges after that improbable start is correctly placed to fill the canvas. And what a picture it is! We have not one but many drawings created before our eyes. He also demonstrates his ability to change course as he works, as new ideas occur to him, totally transforming the work. In a final scene, he virtually destroys and recreates a beach scene several times as he reveals this amazing talent. It is astonishing to see how unerringly he can encapsulate an entire scene such a a bullfight with a few strokes of his brush. Note how a few simple marks in the background convincingly denote a large crowd. I found this entire performance absolutely captivating.

The filming technique is also masterful, so that the film is an artwork in itself. The film is actually a record of what appears on the reverse side of Picasso's canvas as he works. Picasso uses special inks that penetrate the canvas. The viewer sees the picture developing without the presence of the artist. During several breaks in the film, Picasso appears.

The film was made with a running commentary in French. Two separate and different commentaries in English have been added, so one may choose any of three versions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Galina on April 14, 2007
Format: DVD
A-one-of-a-kind look at the artistic process, the unique art documentary captures the creativity itself. Two friends, the great painter and the great director, Pablo Picasso and Henri-George Clouzot decided to do what Goethe's Faust had dreamed about - to capture and to store forever the moment of beauty and inspiration. Picasso conceives, sketches, and paints twenty canvases before our eyes as the camera rolls. The film did not solve the mystery of Picasso who had said about himself, "When I was 9 years old, I could paint like Rafael; as an adult, all my life I tried to learn how to paint like a child" but it lets us to be the eye-witnesses of the amazing process - the birth of twenty works of art into existence. Twenty exiting moments the only Artist could live through are captured forever for us to enjoy again and again. Clouzot uses a specially designed transparent 'canvas' to provide an unobstructed view and different techniques including slow motion animation to let the main character, the invisible Picasso's brush speak for itself. The film is accompanied by exquisite music and gorgeous photography by Claude Renoir, grandson of impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and nephew of Jean Renoir. The paintings created by Picasso in the film cannot be seen anywhere else. They were destroyed upon completion of the film. The French government has taken over the preservation of the original negative and has declared this truly unique and priceless documentary a national (and I would call it an international) treasure.

Criterion DVD also includes "Guernica", a short documentary directed in 1950 by Alain Resnais before any of his feature films.
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