Written by British Art critic Waldemar Januszczak and narrated by Bob Peck, this narrative biography of Picasso covers his life and work. Focusing on chonologically displayed individual works which are introduced on bizarre, movable chain link fences in a cellar, Januszczak offers both unconventional works such as Picasso’s early wood assmblages along with incisive commentary. After describing the portraits that Picasso did of his first son Paolo, Januszczak dryly adds, “Later on Paolo would often be in trouble with the police. In the end he becomes Picasso’s chauffeur”. When describing Picasso’s seminal piece Demoiselles D’avignon, “Picasso called it his first exorcism painting, it would protect him from evil female spirits, he was suffering from veneral disease at the time”.
Januszczak’s main thesis revolves around the corrida and Picasso’s life and relationships in terms of bull fighting metaphors along with the related myth of the minotaur. The documentary is not for those who do not like the sight of blood or the nature of bullfights as there are plenty of clips of bloodied bulls and matadors. Januszczak paints a macho somewhat sadistic and misogynistic picture of Picasso. He examines Picasso’s work that includes a bloody rag used to clean up the kitchen after a squabble with his wife Olga. It is pierced with nails. When describing Picasso’s portrait of Olga, Woman in a Red Armchair, I believe he writes, “He paints her as a reptilian, vagina’d, entarteur (pie thrower)”. He goes on to quote Picasso as stating, “There are only two types of women, goddesses and doormats”.
The film focuses mainly on Picasso’s works with very little other footage added in. The bullfighting scenes appear fairly timeless and any other imagery is generally brief and in no way anachronistic. The film shows appreciation, however lacks much of the idoltry that pervades many other Picasso biographies. It ends with Picasso’s last words, “Painting remains to be invented”.
Art Geek Factor: 8 out of 10 Stars
Artistic Accuracy: 8 out of 10 Stars
Overall Movie: 7 out of 10 Stars
Summary: Avoid this film if you do not care to see images of bullfighting and do not want to hear confirmations of Picasso’s misongyny. However, the film provides a complete survey of Picasso’s life and works. It includes many of his lesser known unconventional works and aside from the bullfighting scenes, focuses almost entirely on the actual works themselves avoideing the talking heads that dominate so many of the other biographies on Picasso.