Based on the study of Visite à Picasso, a documentary film by Paul Haesaerts (1950), and of Le Mystère Picasso by Henri-Georges Clouzot (1955), the aim is to see how the artist collaborates with filmmakers in terms of what aspects of his identity he conveys to or conceals from the viewer.
These two films focus on the work in progress: by proposing that Picasso should use felt pens that penetrate paper, in Le Mystère Picasso, Henri-Georges Clouzot does a retake on a procedure created by Paul Haesaerts in Visite à Picasso, a film in which the painter painted on a translucent plate. This finding gives the viewer the impression of seeing the work being done because he is painting live and the brush disappears into the picture, thereby allowing only the strokes that are being formed on the painting to emerge. The viewer becomes a witness to the work at the very moment it is being made. For André Bazin, it is the second revolution of film on art, coming after the one caused by Emmer’s and Gras’s films, which was a spatial revolution due to the elimination of the frame. This second revolution is about a new relationship with time. Le Mystère Picasso is interesting because it is not didactic and is therefore distinct from other films on art made before it. It does not try to explain Pablo Picasso, but instead settles for showing him working. This film does not have any pedagogical rationale. André Bazin explains that, before Henri-Georges Clouzot, films on art only showed snippets of work in progress, while the bulk of their run time was devoted to various didactic approaches. He defends Henri-Georges Clouzot’s choice of editing: there has been much criticism of his use of fast motion. For him, it is a conscious and justified filmmaking choice because it is not necessary to render the original event in its entire duration, but instead to show a “spectacular time”.
Although Pablo Picasso disappears behind his painting in progress, the presence of his body, his energy and his creative force are nevertheless noticeable. These two films are great tributes to a body that created with an energy that was both constant and complete. Picasso’s mystery remains intact; the film does not seek to reveal the identity of the painter as an individual, but instead tries to capture the essence of the artist. Rather than the spoken word, it is a matter of seeing a body fully dedicated to its creation. Paradoxically, the best way to approach Pablo Picasso’s identity is undoubtedly to watch the man create – a man who has tirelessly devoted his life to creation. This study will analyse the filmmaking methods, the aesthetic biases drawn on to make a certain choice, the staging of the real and the arrangements made possible thanks to cinematographic techniques.