Mystery of Picasso, The (1956)

Mystery of Picasso, The (1956)

“To understand what goes in a painter’s mind, you need to follow his hand.”

Director Henri-Georges Clouzot and cinematographer Claude Renoir (with a soundtrack by Georges Auric) film Pablo Picasso making — and remaking — a series of unique drawings and paintings.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Artists
  • Documentary
  • Henri-Georges Clouzot Films

Anyone reasonably interested in the work of Pablo Picasso will want to check out this fascinating collaborative effort by accomplished artists who came together to create an enduring artifact of Picasso’s creative process. Most of the drawings and paintings he produced during these filmed sessions were purportedly destroyed, adding to the film’s mystique and value (perhaps). The not-so-subtle irony of the title, of course, is that Picasso’s quirky genius remains as mysterious as ever — especially as he crosses out and reworks portions of his art that seem perfectly fine and pleasing, only to create new, different, and sometimes (but certainly not always) equally-pleasing replacements. Personally, I was a kid in the candy store while watching this film, glued to the screen to see what would unfold next — and speaking of kids, my own three children (ages 6, 8, and 10, all budding artists) stumbled upon me watching it and were completely drawn in, requesting to start again from the beginning; we talked out loud to the screen as Picasso worked, saying, “No — wait! Picasso, what are you doing? What IS that? Hmmmm… That’s interesting. I like that color… Oh, I see the bull now! No, I liked the other face better” and so forth. I can easily imagine us rewatching this one together numerous times.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A fascinating look at Picasso’s artistic process — on the surface, anyway!

  • George Auric’s score

Must See?
Yes, as a unique cinematic collaboration, and for its historical relevance.



One thought on “Mystery of Picasso, The (1956)

  1. Not must-see – though it will be of interest to fans of Picasso.

    Picasso and Clouzot were friends so this collaboration is not surprising. And it makes sense to capture Picasso in particular since his work reflects a certain bold, dramatic flair (esp. in his color sense and eccentric composition) that easily lends itself to this kind of cinematic project. Occasionally, there is also a welcome example of the artist’s versatility. (I’m not a huge fan of Picasso’s work but I have sometimes admired his skill.)

    The extended, next-to-last piece, however, stands out in stark contrast. While it begins in an interesting and inviting fashion, it then shifts – looking as though Picasso isn’t quite sure what he wants to accomplish with the piece but he nevertheless continues to work (and over-work) it until it loses all coherency. It’s an odd (but perhaps instructive) thing to witness.

    Overall, I can see where the doc *could* be must-see viewing for an ff who has children and watches it with them to encourage their own creative impulses. That would have value, certainly.

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