Review: ‘Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies’

Positing the theory that cinema revolutionized human perception of time, space and motion, art dealer-cum-producer/director Arne Glimcher ("Mambo Kings") explores the links between cubism and movies in "Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies," armed with a gaggle of artists, historians, theoreticians and filmmakers (including narrator-producer Martin Scorsese).

Positing the theory that cinema revolutionized human perception of time, space and motion, art dealer-cum-producer/director Arne Glimcher (“Mambo Kings”) explores the links between cubism and movies in “Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies,” armed with a gaggle of artists, historians, theoreticians and filmmakers (including narrator-producer Martin Scorsese). A dazzling, opulent treasure trove of early cinema excerpts spills across the screen in this fascinating hourlong docu, which requires a suitable pairing to merit an arthouse run but should thrive on cable.

Docu follows no single throughline. Rather, Glimcher assembles a hypothetical collage, counterposing various theories and personal angles on the subject, while the two most discussed juxtapositions — the relationship between fine art and early cinema, and the oddly symbiotic kinship of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, both enthusiastic cinephiles — reign at pic’s center.

Film pioneer Georges Melies’ gleeful dismemberments of the human figure are echoed in cubism’s anatomical deconstructions, and the swirling draperies of Loie Fuller’s filmed dances are said to gleam in satin splendor between the bodies on display in Picasso’s “Demoiselles d’Avignon.” The almost surreal physicality seen in films such as “The Accordion” and “Man With a Clarinet” finds its counterpart in musical instruments embedded in the canvases of Picasso and Braque. Just as these artists respond to cinema’s fractionalization of time and space, so cubism’s leaching of color evokes cinema’s monochromatic hues. Even the fluttering of light visible around the edges of many cubist compositions suggests a projection-flicker source.

At the same time, the striking similarity of the paintings by Braque and Picasso forms a surreal subtext of its own. The two artists toiled in eerie tandem from 1907-1914, begging the question of a shared source of inspiration, until the onset of WWI blew the two gestalts apart.

Glimcher’s fanciful montages of the technological revolution tend to widen, rather than narrow, the pic’s focus: Archival footage of planes, trains and the moving sidewalk that surrounded the Paris Exposition of 1900 summons a world drunk on the spectacle of motion.

At a time when the prohibitive costs of clip clearance result in increasingly meager snippets of cinematic illustration, docu’s glorious profusion of clear, sharp, archival imagery reps a film freak’s idea of eye-candy.

Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies

Production

A Martin Scorsese, Robert Greenhut presentation. (International sales: Endeavor Independent, Los Angeles.) Produced by Arne Glimcher, Greenhut, Scorsese.Executive producer, Bonnie Hlinomaz. Directed by Arne Glimcher.

Crew

Camera (color, HD) Peter Hlinomaz; editor, Sabine Krayenbuhl; sound, Red Reynolds; supervising sound editor, Margaret Crimmins. Reviewed at Hamptons Film Festival (World Cinema), Oct. 17, 2007. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Mavericks.)Running time: 60 MIN.

With

Martin Scorsese, Bernice Rose, Julian Schnabel, Chuck Close, Lucas Samaras, Robert Whitman, Eric Fischl, Jennifer Wild. Narrator: Martin Scorsese.
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