Picasso Served Up in Rich Cinematic Terms


What is it about Merchant Ivory films that make them so handsome and erudite and yet so entertaining and giving? It is the touch that the team of Producer Ismail Merchant, Director James Ivory, and Screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has treated audiences to for decades. This critic grieves that there be no one in this crass world to replace them in making motion pictures of these highest standards.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts offers one such fine Merchant Ivory experience this Friday at 6:30 on the big screen in VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater ($7/ $5 for members). Surviving Picasso (1996) provides a look at Pablo Picasso’s private life from 1943-1953 dwelling on the relationship he had with aspiring painter Francoise Gilot.

Anthony Hopkins delivers an uncannily convincing portrayal of the supreme genius of 20th century world art. He captures the charismatic and at times clownish side of Picasso while hinting at that moribund, cat-about-to-strike side that we have seen in some photos and films. Natascha McElhone is splendid as the sturdy young woman who endured Picasso’s overweening confidence and capriciousness towards lovers.
An authentically detailed period piece, Surviving Picasso rises above situations that in the hands of lesser filmmakers could be mawkish or stooping to soap operatic depths. This motion picture is for adults in the best sense. Come and enjoy and leave refreshed and enriched.
–H. Hobart Cornell, Critic-at-large