Soutine. The name is familiar; the artist's work less so. The man, Chaïm Soutine, born in 1893 in a shtetl in today's Belarus, was a mysterious, shadowy figure. Filmmakers Valerie Firla and Murielle Levy seized the handful of clues they had; a few books, an old film, a tomb at Montpamasse cemetery; and conducted an uncompromising investigation. Arriving in Paris in 1912, Soutine joined the circle of those the 20th century would make great: Chagall, Picasso, Modigliani... Described by his peers as over wrought and high-strung, he was already driven to express his inner strife by twisting the lines and thickening the paint. The less aggressive, more harmonious work of his later years is the outcome of a lifelong battle Soutine waged with himself to keep his lines under control.
This documentary is more than a well-deserved tribute to a major painter from the school of Paris. The filmmakers' subtle approach to the work, and obvious fascination with his personality bring a complex, deeply engaging artist to life.