Sunday, September 7, 2008

TIFF 2008: Picasso and Braque go to the Movies

Picasso and Braque go to the Movies (U.S., 2008) directed by Arne Glimcher, 60 minutes (Isabel Bader Theatre)

This short film is part of the Maverick series at TIFF and it certainly has an interesting premise with the added bonus of three bona fide art icons in a discussion afterwards. Arne Glimcher, Chairman of the PaceWildenstein Gallery, the film's director, has represented many of the most famous modern artists of the late 20th c. including Robert Rauschenberg.

Glimcher contends that Picasso and Braque, pioneers in Cubism and confreres, were influenced by both the early cinema and aviation in the same way that painters were influenced by the invention of photography and that the advent of photography influenced the way painters painted.

It was originally an art exhibit curated by Glimcher and was an idea that he had been tossing around for twenty years or so. An audience member asked an astute question about whether this purported influence was conscious or unconscious which of course no one could possibly know.

From what I gathered, Cubism may have been an attempt to emulate motion in the movies. Images in the paintings of Picasso and Braque, often strikingly similar, may have been influenced by short films that they likely would have seen in Paris at the turn of the century. These included a short film on a famous body builder of the time, the "serpentine" dance of the dancer Loie Fuller, the early films of the French filmmaker Georges Méliès (1861 – 1938), the first planes of aviation, etc …

More interesting than the documentary which I do not pretend to fully understand loaded as it was with art experts and the more accessible Martin Scorsese, director and an avid film historian, was the discussion afterwards with Glimcher, Chuck Close and Julian Schnabel.

Glimcher, gaunt and elegant in a vivid red scarf and expensive shoes, was the picture of New York casual chic. He was enthusiastic and articulate if not completely convincing.

Schnabel, who surprisingly sat in the audience a few rows behind me to watch the film, shambled up in his trademark athletic pants, sneakers and wildly patterned purple and green shirt for the discussion. That this guy makes the Vanity Fair Best Dressed list every year still amazes me. He vacillates between regular guy and monstrous artistic ego. Apropos of nothing he mentioned anecdote about himself and Chuck Close. Close had said to him years ago, “I’m the second person that knew what a huge success you would be in the art world, after yourself that is”.

Chuck Close is a big imposing man, now confined to a wheelchair (I don’t know if he is ill or has some other ailment) and was interesting, articulate and openly admitted to “hating” the Internet, Facebook and all that comes with it when Schnabel muttered something to that effect. Close said somewhat sheepishly, “I didn’t want to be the first old fart to admit that!”

Amazing to have access to these people (and to sit in the second row doing so as well!).

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