Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Survival of the Picasso-est

In the "tortured artist is a cad but ya gotta love him" genre of films (which includes Basquiat, Vincent and Theo and Pollock,) one of my all-time favorites is Surviving Picasso. And for some reason, it's never been available on DVD until now, when the era of DVD is effectively over. Go figure. And even so, Warner Bros. has released it on its no-frills-whatsoever "archive" series that don't even include a conventional menu. I don't mean to sound ungrateful - after all, I've been waiting for over a decade for the DVD - but can we have a fancy Blu-Ray now with bonus features and stuff?

The film bombed originally. I don't know why. What could be better than Anthony Hopkins playing Pablo Picasso, Natascha McElhone (Karen from Californication) as his best gal Fran├žoise Gilot, Julianne Moore as his other best gal Dora Maar, and Dominic West (McNulty from The Wire) as Pablo Jr.? And with James Ivory at the helm (he who brought you other smash Hopkins films like A Room With a View and Remains of the Day), you'd think this woulda been sure-fire.

Perhaps part of the reason is that although this was conceived and marketed as a "chick flick", telling the story from Gilot's point of view and making Picasso the villain, it failed in its mission. It actually makes the rogueish Picasso seem like a wild and crazy fun-loving guy that endears you to him. Sure, he does some reprehensible things, but he's an entertaining eccentric who sways you to his way of layin' down the Napoleonic Code nonetheless.

Hopkins does great, especially since he actually looks like Picasso - unlike Nixon, where we have a short balding British man playing a tall American known for having a prominent widow's peak in his hairline. Hopkins pulled off Nixon nonetheless through sheer acting genius, and he does the same here.

Oh yeah: full frontal nude scene of McElhone. Just sayin'.

- - JSH

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