Surviving Picasso

The vibrant and exhilarating portrait of Picasso has us believing within the shortest span of time that we are indeed watching Picasso and not the actor Anthony Hopkins. The exuberance of the child-man in his passionate relationships with various women as well as his spontaneous, often whimsical, sometimes cruel manner of dealing with friends and acquaintances are displayed with such directness and frankness that it makes him an once an endearing and unnerving creature. He is unpredictable, but he is exciting. Perhaps that is one of the characteristics that made him attractive to so many women. They range from the young painter Francoise (Natascha McElhone), central woman of this film, to the housewife-mother Marie-Therese (Susannah Harker), to his actual wife Olga (Jane Lapotaire), a Russian dancer who has gone mad, to another painter named Dora (Julianne Moore), who suffered, through him, a nervous breakdown. His life is littered with the victims of love. And not a few children. Francoise is warned early against this man by her mother, but pays no heed. He becomes her lover, teacher, and companion. Ten years later, she realizes that she must leave him, and, in so doing, manages to maintain her life intact.

James Ivory and Ismail Merchant add another sensitively rendered work from a screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to their already impressive list of films. Among the notable cast list are Peter Eyre, Joss Ackland, Joan Plowright, Diane Venora, Joseph Maher, and Bob Peck. Superb points for Director of Photography Tony Pierce-Roberts and Production Designer Luciana Arrighi, although the entire crew deserves praise.

I strongly suggest this film, especially if you have an avid interest in either artists or biographies, or both.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett