If the Met’s massive retrospective and MoMA’s concurrent exhibition of prints aren’t enough to satisfy Picasso devotees this spring, they will fortunately have recourse to yet another venue: the movie theater. Adding fuel to the Picasso frenzy is Arne Glimcher’s documentary Picasso and Braque Go To the Movies, a short but incisive look at how two of art history’s most prominent figures were influenced by the revolutionary medium of cinema. Narrated by none other than Martin Scorsese and featuring interviews with scholars and artists alike, the film doggedly makes the case that moving images exerted a profound influence over the formal development of Cubism, inspiring Picasso and Braque’s invention of a new kind of pictorial space in which, like cinema, reality is viewed from multiple angles at once.
Picasso’s sketches of a cinematograph? You be the judge. 
Occasionally disjointed, the documentary assembles an impressive stream of early film excerpts punctuated with plentiful examples of Picasso and Braque masterpieces (often shown side by side) that fell under cinema’s spell. Film fanatics especially will delight in the early actuality footage of the Lumière brothers and the more fanciful, impish attractions conjured up by George Méliès. Interviews with artists, including contemporary heavyweights such as Chuck Close, Eric Fischl, Julien Schnabel and Coosje Van Bruggen offer intriguing analysis on the aesthetic links between cinema and Cubism, sometimes tying in their own artistic practice as well. (Eric Fischl, for example suggest that Cubist painters emulated cinematic projections by evoking a flickering light source at the edges of their canvasses.) However, those looking for an exploration of Picasso and Braque’s relationship will be disappointed: though the two artists (who were the undisputed Romulus and Remus of the movement) worked so closely together for a period of six years that some of their work was virtually indistinguishable from one another, very little is offered to explain their affinity and the equivalence between their work.
The film makes the case that Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon [1907} was inspired by the serpentine dance of Loïe Fuller.
While the overall premise is of the doc is fascinating, at times the execution leaves something to be desired--at its worst moments, the film plays like an exceedingly well-researched Powerpoint lecture. Rather than allowing the images to construct a vivid sense of the particular correspondences between Cubism and early cinema, the film is overly insistent of its argument, resorting to large-scale generalizations and weak suppositions. However, those that don't mind its boilerplate History Channel approach will appreciate this in-depth study of the compelling intersection of art and film at the turn of the century.
A still from "The Accordion" [Pathé Frères, 1906] and Picasso’s “The Accordionist” , underlining the conceptual similarity of early cinema and Cubism.
Picasso and Braque Go To the Movies is currently playing at Cinema Village in New York, NY.
Happy Together is a story of a fleeting love affair, but it is also a love letter to Buenos Aires. I recently visited the city for the first time and was struck by the slow ebb of energy that pulsates in its streets and cafés, a melancholy aura that betrays nostalgia for a faded past, and dreams for the not-so-certain future.
In Happy Together, the main character Lai Yiu-fai (played by Tony Leung) lives in the neighborhood known as La Boca, literally the mouth of the Riachuelo river. This barrio, with its colorful houses and storied history, is often invoked as as emblematic of Buenos Aires as a whole. The birthplace of Argentinean tango, it is a dangerous neighborhood to walk around in outside the limited tourist district. It is also quite a bit of distance from the city’s center.
The rooftops of La Boca in Buenos Aires
Lai Yiu-fai is shown repeatedly catching the bus to and from La Boca from his job at a doorman at a nightclub. I also took the #29 bus, which looks almost exactly the same today.
Lai Yiu-fai running after the #29 bus
The La Boca bus depot
And here is the La Boca bridge that the two lovers jog across one cold morning:
Ho Po-Wing [Leslie Cheung] and Lai Yiu-fai [Tony Leung]
The La Boca waterfront with the bridge in the background.
And lastly here is El Obelisco, located in the center of the city at Avenida 9 de Julio. Wong Kar Wai uses sped-up footage of this monument, which is located in the middle of the widest street in the world, as as a trope to showcase the swift passage of time.
Godard’s new film Socialisme premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, and is also being streamed online (though sadly only available to those in France). Though I wasn’t able to view the film (mon dieu did i try) the few reviews I’ve scrounged up are all tentative attempts to make sense of the subject matter, and avoid passing judgment on its aesthetic merits. The film is undoubtedly layered and opaque, and part of the confusion seems to stem from the deliberately obfuscatory subtitles — perhaps Godard’s resistance to translating the film into coherent English is an attempt to undermine its commodification. There is also a lot of controversy over Godard’s no-show at the press conference and the statement he faxed (faxed!) over to Thierry Frémaux, the festival’s director:
Suite à des problèmes de type Grec, je ne pourrai être votre obligé à Cannes.Avec le festival, j’irai jusqu’à la mort, mais je ne ferai pas un pas de plus. Amicalement, Jean-Luc Godard ["Due to problems of Greek type, I can not be obliged to you in Cannes. I would go unto death for the festival, but I will not be able to take a step further. Regards. Jean-Luc Godard"]
This note was accompanied by a portrait of Ozu.
In our flurry to understand the most enigmatic of directors we cannot resist trying to decode this statement. Do “problems of the Greek type” allude to the present-day riots, or is it a more oblique Classical reference? Does Ozu have any special significance? And does the potent phrase “jusqu’à la mort” suggest health problems?
The film also ends with the title card displaying the words “NO COMMENT” (There are no credits). This strikes me as an extraordinarily pessimistic coda, and the lack of subject position/opinion betrayed by this statement is in and of itself a commentary on the possibility of political action. “No comment” is a deflecting phrase, used to fend off ornery inquiries and to eradicate conversation. I can’t really determine anything beyond that without having seen the film, but here is the elliptical trailer (with English subtitles):
Whatever one may think of Godard’s talent as a director, it is difficult to deny the breadth of his intelligence — evidenced by his copious references. When faced with the daunting prospect of having to produce copy on a Godard film after a single viewing, it is only natural that most reviews will fall into one of the two established camps: anti-intellectual hostility or cinephilic adulation. While I personally think Godard is a great director who has produced a few stinkers (e.g. King Lear), I just wish that critics would abandon their usual criteria for evaluating his films, because for Godard, the rules don’t apply (and they never did). Take a deep breath. Soak in the composition and the movement. Use the film as a skein and weave your thoughts around it — the words, the music, the images.
My favorite essay on Godard is actually quite critical of his films — but evinces a strong fascination with his aesthetic philosophy and a desire to determine if the films are good, bad or something in between. The writer is none other than Raymond Durgnat and it is entitled “Asides on Godard” (from The Films of Jean-Luc Godard, ed. Ian Cameron). Here are some excerpts that seem especially relevant in light of Socialisme:
I. God, Godard, Godot
Godard is of Swiss Calvinist stock. His art is basically a Protestant one. Grey, ascetic images reduce the world to a concept of itself. He photographs Karina like Dreyer photographs Falconetti, but reduces her to just a face, mysterious, melancholy, ethereal even gaiety, where Dreyer’s images are sculptural, anguished. There’s flesh in Dreyer, despite the resonances, resemblances between flesh and stone, which asceticism apart, carry the implication that people are real and strong like stone, like rocks of ages. Bu in Godard everything is a grey, jerky flow. Godard’s is an art of the plastic age, of fluent, pliable, putty characters.
Godard’s words-on-images suggest an agnostic, nay nihilistic Bresson, and indeed the Catholic critic Henri Agel accused Bresson of Jansenism, which is a heresy with many Calvinistic connections. Godard’s is a Calvinistic mind astray in a Godless, soulless world, a world of accidents which because they lack essence lack even a felt existence…
Godard’s films which seem to me ludicrously bad fascinate several people whose opinions I respect, and I explain their infatuation as follows (which infuriates them). His evocations of an emotionally and morally lost world would appeal to my acquaintances’ disillusionment, their pain as nice, idealistic, upper-middle class liberals, finding themselves in today’s cool, fluid, cynical world. His despair catches their own melancholy. His best films are those where feelings of pain and loss are most plausible: À Bout de Souffle, Let Petit Soldat, and one or two passages in Pierrot Le Fou, notably the beautiful ending. The feelings are plausible because the characters have positive, focused desires, the frustration of which we observe.
There are of course other reasons for responding to Godard’s duller films. One may be a connoisseur of remarkable idioms and styles. One may be skeptical to the point of nihilism, suffering from a moral and emotional impotence behind which lies just the breath of remorse that appears in Godard’s films…Or one may admire Godard’s bad films because of their sense of the world as unreal — a schizophrenic art for a schizophrenic epoch.
This extraordinary painting, now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of their massive Picasso exhibition, stands apart from the rest of his work for several reasons. The first reason is color: composed almost entirely in blue and white (with just the barest hint of yellow) it emerges as a minimalist piece, precisely because it lacks the riotous lightning bolts of color that characterize the Picasso we know so well. The second reason has to do with the composition: unlike most of his work, this painting has a clear figure/ground relationship: the nude is distinct and freestanding against a background of sea and sky. This is structurally different from most Picassos in which the environment and the figure merge into a single plane of dimensional disarray, shattering our concept of space forever.
Why is this painting so remarkably different from the rest of Picasso’s output at the time? Because this is a painting of a sculpture that never was. Picasso once had the idea of placing these monumental sculptures along La Croisette, the sea front at Cannes, but they never came into being. “I have to paint them,” he said “because nobody’s ready to commission one from me.” Wouldn’t it be incredible if someone could commission them today, to be a part of the backdrop at the Cannes Film Festival? Along with all of the celebrities, we’d have this uncanny and monstrous creature to add just the right amount of unreality to the proceedings, like a nude from outer space. Picasso, I think, would approve.