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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Art > Picasso: Magic, Sex, Death

Picasso: Magic, Sex, Death


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B



There have been a few documentaries and even short films made about Picasso or have dealt in one way or another with Picasso.  A more recent look is done in the new DVD set Picasso: Magic, Sex, Death, which explores his work along with those themes simultaneously.  When dealing with most painters or artists and trying to capture their work onto film it can be complicated.  Take for example the films that have portrayed the life or artists like Vincent Van Gogh or Jackson Pollock.  Have they been able to reach beneath the paint or do they focus too tightly on the turmoil or the artist.  A good example would be The Horse’s Mouth starring Alec Guinness, which was about the made-up artist Gulley Jimson in his battle over creativity and criticism.


Pablo Picasso has been a major influential force in the 20th century and looking back now to analyze his work we gain a better understanding of the overall context of his work and their significance.  Often it is hard to judge a piece of art until we see the future and what kind of broader scope it is able to embellish.  Some might argue this case and state that art is eternal and has a place no matter what the context or time, which in some ways is true.  To take my point further lets think about the ancient painting that have been found on walls of caves, which have taught us a lot about the culture of those that lived then and the artists visions. However, the work that survived is the only work that can be critiqued, but what if we were to have a way to see all of the artwork from this period and compared and contrasted with other work.  Instead, we are left with only some remains for which they become important simply because of their existence, not necessarily their aesthetic qualities. 


Then there is the question of what makes art good.  A recent attempt to bring this question to life came in 2003’s Mona Lisa Smile, for which the film was onto something, but became too involved with other points than to address issues like analyzing art.  One might suggest that a good piece of art is able to capture an audience and be able to translate meaning to them.  To move them.  Picasso was able to do so, but he had to reach a different audience because his work was beyond what was considered ‘normal’ at the time.  His visions of creativity seemed simplistic, yet when one goes to recreate this art they realize the craft behind it.  There is a fine line between junk that looks like art and just plain junky art.  Picasso obviously was able to convey various themes, but this documentary focuses in on three of them and not just how they are reflected in his work, but in his life as well.


For this release BFS has issued the film in a 2-disc set, which features the entire 150-minute program as well as some insightful extras.  Presented in a full-frame aspect ratio the documentary looks good considering all the various clips throughout the years.  Some of the segments reminded me of Jackson Pollock:  Love and Death on Long Island, which dealt with the origins of Pollock’s success and criticism. What is particularly refreshing here is that the material is focused and deals with three topics, which makes it powerful.  A Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is provided and supplies the usual type of documentary sound design with dialogue being almost mono in origin coming through two speakers. 


The extras include a DVD-ROM portion, which goes through the timeline of Picasso and then there is a segment entitled Picasso: In His Own Words, which makes for a nice addition rounding off this low-key release quite nice.  A trivia section is neither lengthy nor difficult, but gives the viewer something to do afterwards.



-   Nate Goss


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