Music by Georges Auric, who also scored Cocteau’s movies. Shot by Claude Renoir, who also shot a handful of his uncle Jean’s films and also Barbarella. Director Clouzot made this between a mystery thriller and a spy parody.
A nice companion movie to La Belle noiseuse, another one where we actually watch a painting being created in real time. The movie introduces Picasso, then cuts to a full shot of a transparent canvas, Picasso’s brush (or pen, whatever) on one side, the camera on the other, so there are a few over-the-shoulder shots but mostly we’re seeing (a mirror image of) the canvas with the painting magically appearing upon it. There are edits and time-lapse too – areas of wet paint dry in an instant, whole areas of color or pattern suddenly appear. Sometimes we’re clearly watching a painting from start to finish in real time, and sometimes they’ll tell us in voiceover how long it actually took.
There’s no narration – rather what little verbal information we learn is in the form of (obviously staged) conversations between artist and camera crew. My favorite bit is when Picasso asks for a very large canvas and suddenly the movie goes into Cinemascope ratio (‘scope was less than three years old, so still a cool novelty).
It’s a suspense/art film as you watch the work in progress and try to wonder what PP is planning, where the painting is heading (even he doesn’t seem to know half the time), and when it’s “done”. The wonder of this film is that the paintings exist through time – most of them look great when complete, but the process and intermediate steps are just as great… you’re not just waiting for good art to appear at an unknown end point, you’re watching it all along. The filmmakers keep it short (<80 minutes), the music styles vary greatly between paintings, and there are some bursts of crew participation, like the time they pressure PP to finish a painting before their reel of film runs out. What a great movie! My favorite of documentary month. Katy and Jimmy liked it too.